Is Your Data Safe and Should You Care?
It’s been a while since I wrote about social media even though it’s my day job. Stories of fatherhood and things I’ve learned has been taking precedent recently.
However, after reading in a Wall Street Journal article that my much loved Huawei phone or its manufacturing processes may, just may have a connection to the Chinese military and so my data, calls, texts, and even the log-ins to my accounts may be accessible, it got me thinking.
First of all, this is all so-far unproven and my Huawei P20 Pro is the best phone I’ve ever had. The Leica lenses and very clever AI make for astonishing photos. But is my data worth it?
I’m not in the government or of any official standing, so my secrets are mostly around what I’m planning for dinner or Christmas stocking ideas. They’re not interested in me so who cares?
I am already completely aware that Facebook knows everything about me, tracks my internet use after leaving the site thanks to ‘tracking pixels’. It also sells this info to people who want to advertise to me.
At first look, my data is turned into generalizations to avoid too many ethical dilemmas, but as we’ve seen with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, they can see anything they want under the guise of ‘if they didn’t want us to see it, they shouldn’t have shared it online’.
Free WiFi services that you see when you’re out and about also capture your data. From the amount you’re downloading to what platforms you’re using. It hasn’t been shared yet if there’s more to this story but if/when there is, I’m sure we’ll all hear about it. Also, be careful when looking for free WiFi connections when you’re in a mall or coffee shop.
It might not be the location’s own network and someone on a laptop who has set up a hotspot which can be used to see what you’re browsing and the passwords you’re using. To avoid people seeing your password, use a password manager like FastPass which automatically fills the forms when you’re promoted to log-in. Nobody sees a single character that you typed in because it stores them for you like a big steel safe that talks to the site.
Is this part of modern life? If I’m being given something free, I’m the product.
Phones, smart watches, internet, over-sharing, and everything online is part of modern life. So should I just accept that my life and it’s updates is up for public reading? Even your games are tracking your location and travel data.
The real question shouldn’t be ‘am I ok with this?’ it’s ‘what is my data being used for?’. Am I still risk of cyber crimes, bullying, or even a government deciding how much I’m worth and divvying up public services to be based on social credit (this is a real proposed scheme!)
To bring this back to my usual parenthood angle, how do we keep our kids (and ourselves) safe from people having access to their/our data?
Well to put it simply, if you don’t put it online it is much harder for other people to see it. Last year I wrote about how to keep your family safe while online, but to save you a click, here are the most useful parts:
- Have an open talk with your family about what’s, and who’s online. Try and make them comfortable bringing things to your attention, whether it’s something they’ve found on YouTube, or someone’s being weird in a chat room.
- Keep some passwords to yourself. Don’t leave the app store logged in, complete with your credit card. Mobile games make it really easy (and very tempting) to upgrade to a new level, or to unlock features by buying credits or gold. These will cost you money.
- Online content is available for anyone to see. Make sure that, even if someone is pressuring them to take photos of themselves, or to write something compromising, it will be available for everyone to see. Even in Snapchat, the recipient can take a screenshot and show other people.
- Check the Privacy settings. You can adjust your internet browser in the options menu. This protects from both viruses but in some cases, adult content.
- Programs like Net Nanny give a pretty substantial parental control across Android, iOS, Mac and Windows devices.
- You pay the bills, you set the rules. The amount of ‘screen time’ is up to you to manage, but you could make a contract where the kids and parents decide together what’s fair and what should happen if they’re approached by a stranger online.
- Show how to make strong passwords. If your account is hacked, your photos, even the ones you took but didn’t post, and private data is all gone, and worse still, you can get locked out while they post on your behalf.
- Put the computer in a central location. This should give you line-of-sight to the screen and to keep a general eye on what’s going on.
- Teach them about online reputation. The line between things you say online and real-life conversations is blurry at best. Be careful about how they represent themselves in such a public way.
- Lead by example. Get to know the networks and understand the available settings. Show the benefits of having a respectable online presence and that you’re willing to talk about what you’ve found online.