There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about the need for data privacy. Emerging technologies like big data and the Internet of Things are brining privacy concerns to the forefront and it seems like the need to protect our personal data is becoming more and more relevant as more of our information is being exposed to the Internet in various forms.
How safe is our data at the moment?
The safety of our personal data (or rather the lack of safety) was also brought to our attention recently by news that the NSA had been spying on us via digital means – Internet giants including Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Apple and Microsoft had admitted to providing the NSA with direct access to user information stored on their servers.
We can’t really blame any of those companies for doing so because in fact they had no choice – if you are requested by the US government and/or security agencies to hand something over, you do exactly that.
The likelihood is that the latest revelation is just a drop in the ocean and if we think that our data is private and secure aside from this one incident then we really are kidding ourselves. The reality is that government and security agencies have access to such a huge plethora of information that they probably know everything there is to know about each and every one of us.
When you think about how much of our lives are held on line (and by the way, part of a global network that links almost every computer in the world together, called the Internet) it is hard to believe that we have any privacy at all. From social security to our bank account details, our mortgage, our mobile phone information and our shopping history – all of this information is stored online and to think that people do not have access to it is laughable.
So how can we keep our data private?
Keeping your data private is almost impossible; you would have to stay offline completely to remain private and that would mean no bank account, no social security and no passport. This would be reserved for the likes of Frank Abagnale Jr.
The most we can hope for is keeping our online communications private and even that would be a mighty challenge – it would involve browsing exclusively via secure connection or encrypted VPN link, encrypting all of the data on our computer and only using encrypted and anonymous email communications such as Hush Mail. Even then, based on what the NSA let us know they have access to, who is to say they don’t have access to encrypted communication channels as well; I wouldn’t put that past them.
The reality is that we live in a connected world – we all wanted it to be that way for our own benefit – and there really is no way to get away from it and we simply don’t have the right to a private life anymore so we may as well get used to the big brother state.