When it comes to the use of technology, it is clear that most of us are unaware of the fact that our personal data can be easily controlled by “digital spies”. We tend to be so attracted by the advantages of technology that we forget the drawbacks. Actually, the more we share about ourselves on the digital world, the more content we create for potential spies. “We all have to become aware that our every action could be watched”, says Richard Stiennon, an IT expert. Let’s see then how “digital spies” operate. In fact, the only way to protect ourselves is not stopping to use our digital devices but raising our awareness in order to deal with them at best.
Edward Snowden, the former US security man that made information from the NSA (National Security Agency ) public without authorization, said that government can easily take photos of us and see who we call, what we’ve texted, the things we’ve browsed, the list of our contacts, the places we’ve been, the wireless networks that our phone is associated with. “When I was sitting at my desk working with tools of mass surveillance every day, I saw that (…) this was something that was occurring without our knowledge, without our consent” stated Snowden. Even if most of this surveillance is carried on targeted people (ex. suspected of terrorist attacks or other crimes), we should be aware of how easily government can gain access to our phones.
- Web and Social Media
Platforms such as Google Maps, Facebook and Instagram collect our personal information in order to target advertisements better to us. As a matter of fact, Google Maps records by default all the places we have visited in order to make better recommendations among Google products. Users can turn the function off but as many recent articles demonstrate, most of them have been unaware of it for a long time. Facebook, instead, analyse whatever we post on the platform in order to target advs and create a biased newsfeed only with the posts of our “favourite” friends and pages. Finally, the section “Search and Explore” of Instagram selects photos and videos automatically according to our followers or the posts we like.
- Computer and phone webcams
It is surprisingly and worryingly easy to hack webcams. If we click on an attachment or download some music or videos infected with malware, hackers can gain immediate access to our webcam. In recent years, many victims have found images and videos of themselves mostly in intimate situations uploaded to You-Tube or other websites. Even if we can be more attentive on the Web by downloading a strong anti-virus software, we can easily prevent the hacking by covering our webcam through a sticky or post-it. Mark Zuckerberg does it too, so why should we not do the same?
- Smart TV
- Email providers
It is not widely known that by default, two of the most common email services, Yahoo and Gmail, analyse the contents of users’ email in order to better tailor advertisements to them. As a matter of fact, if we happen to write a friend about something like, we could easily find an adv about it while surfing the Web the next day. Fortunately, we can limit this spying by changing some options in the email providers’ settings (https://www.google.com/settings/u/0/ads/authenticated?hl=en , https://policies.yahoo.com/us/en/yahoo/privacy/ )
- Public Cameras
Since 9/11 events, counterterrorism policies led major cities such as London to enhance dramatically their public surveillance. Every corner is becoming controlled by government and privacy in public spaces seems to have completely disappeared. In 2015 London, for instance, was the city with most surveillance cameras in the world (around 6 million). Tony Porter, a former Britain’s surveillance cameras commissioner, underlined that most people are unaware of “the size, scope and scale” of public cameras and the advancements of technology. He revealed that police, for example, are developing facial-recognition software that can recognize suspects through comparison with family members.