Internet privacy

On Wednesday, we came from lunch into the hub and on the Apple TV was an image saying "Digital Empires, The Great Game". 

Richard Kramer (father of two Halcyon students) introduced us to the topic:  the big monopolists’ world of mobile tech companies and their "Digital Empires". The concept of honesty apparently is either foreign to or a tough decision for most businesses while it is almost a reflex to most of us. 

Mr Kramer’s business relies on honesty.  He helps investors make business decisions, so the more legitimate his information, the better he does (and hopefully his clients do too!). He gave us some somewhat shocking figures of revenue and how the industry was and would be evolving from all different types of phones like the flip, slide, keyboard and twist phone variety of the mid 2000’s into the hundreds of “flat black slabs” of today. We are now in the "after-hardware age" (AHA) where the phone design has been largely secured so companies are branching out into watches, bracelets and necklaces.

After this "brief" introduction, we got into the meat of the talk. “Privacy” he says “has become an opt in term to being on the internet.  Having your information sold has become opt out”. He went on to tell us that at any time, our information is being sold to advertisers and commercial enterprises whether it be our travel route sold to billboard managers by Uber and Google Maps, our visits to Burger King tracked through GPS on our phone sold to McDonalds or our Amazon searches sold to YouTube advertisers. Most of us were surprised, “why would youtube want our information? McDonald’s’ request makes sense in terms of competition, but why youtube?”  Mr Kramer told us that currently advertisement is uncertain, it thinks it knows what you want so it gives you adds to help you find what you ‘want’, but with enough information and a good algorithm, it will become deterministic. It will know what you want before you do and show you the product you’re going to want.

To think that Edward Snowden has been chased out of his country for whistleblowing on the NSA, and yet Mr Kramer is at no risk telling us the secrets of the technology tycoons questionable endeavors is quite amazing. Because the thing is that although it seems illegal, it isn’t even behind our back. The terms and conditions that you sign off without even looking mean that we can’t take legal action. 

We all seem to realise that everything we put on Facebook belongs to them.  But not everyone knew that FB Messenger was probably created to get us to click on the T&C page quickly (because we trust FB, right?) when in fact we have just signed over permission for the Facebook messenger app to access our camera anytime and record us or that the PayPal app takes control of your microphone, camera and photos. Now of course you can protect your privacy with things like VPN’s, an EFF Badger or in the extreme: TOR.  However after a certain point the effort required to improve our privacy becomes very high and difficult to keep track of.

We will be looking at ways to further secure our devices and plan to share this with the community.  Watch this space (everyone else is).

Thank you, Mr Kramer - looking forward to learning more.  

By Eric O.