7th May 2015
Think IT security before giving up your data privacy

Are you ‘appy to give up your data privacy?

They say that there is no such thing as a free lunch so is there really such a thing as a free app? Did you realise just how much of yourself and/or your business that you give away every time you sign up for a free smartphone or tablet app?

As the Switch2IT team takes a great interest in cyber security, especially regarding small to medium businesses, we have been trying to drive home this point for some years now. We feel that people still do not realise how open they leave themselves to data fraud every time they sign up to use the latest gadget on their iPhone or make a bid to escape with a “free” game on their Android.

According to the Economist, Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World by Bruce Schneier is a useful read on this topic. The global business review summed up the book and the credibility of its author, who was involved in explaining to the Guardian the technical language used in the classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, with the following:

“Some recent books on digital privacy have been written by journalists, with an emphasis on sugary narrative instead of original analysis. This one comes from a practitioner, and offers a deep but accessible look at surveillance in the post-Snowden, big-data era.”

The Economist’s review of this book peaked our interest because it highlights the issues resulting from the “compulsive collection of personal data” that we face in a world ruled by modern technology. 

Did you realise that the reason why app developers can afford to give you their products for free is because they are likely selling your personal data to the highest bidder. This is something that is rarely clear in the terms and conditions, even if you did bother to read them before clicking download.  If you are in any doubt this article on Wired from October 2014, The Hidden Privacy Threat of … Flashlight Apps, is pretty enlightening!

In the book, it seems that Schneier touches on many of the issues that we have mentioned previously with regard to government surveillance, both in the UK and the US, particularly the recording of phone calls and the snooping on internet activity. He also refers to the ability of the government, hackers and sophisticated algorithms alike to make inferences about our behaviours and buying habits by monitoring our social media activities.

At the gatekeepers’ mercy

In an article for Fast Company Baratunde Thurston, cofounder of digital agency and product development company Cultivated Wit, said of Facebook, Twitter and Google:

"The big three gatekeepers have an enormous amount of data about us. They’re like Santa: They know when we’ve been Bad or Good."

This is true because, owing to convenience, these are the channels many use to sign up for apps. When faced with entering your details time and again and remembering countless passwords, instead of opting for secure two-factor authentication, most people will click on the easy option: “Sign in with Facebook.” This is where the problem starts – that app now knows so much about you that, if approached by John Humphrys to appear on Mastermind, it could select you as its specialist subject. 

Switch2IT wholeheartedly agrees with Thurston when he says:

                “You shouldn’t need to get hacked to realise the scale of authority being outsourced.”

Companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google should hold accountability and should make privacy options more transparent (a battle we have been fighting for some time now). They should also give users the option to withdraw apps’ access to their personal data, especially when they are not in use. But, above all else, you need to become wiser and protect yourself and your business. This could start with simply selecting the right IT support provider…

Sign up to Switch2IT for free: no worries

Not only can you enquire about our technical support services for free but we will always protect your personal data and advise you further on ways to protect yourself and your business against IT security threats.

We offer IT managed service contracts that will always put the needs of your company first. As well as offering a dedicated IT technician – who will provide you with excellent remote IT support, email support and telephone support – we offer everything from cloud management to IT networking at a price you can afford.  

To find out more about our managed service contracts with their easy-to-budget fixed price monthly payments, contact us today. 

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