Online data and security

The weekly editorial for the 100 Mile Free Press

Facebook has been in the news a lot recently due to the use of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica.

Supposedly, there are also a number of people who are deleting their Facebook accounts.

This week, I downloaded a file Facebook has on me and the file Google has on me.

Facebook’s file largely had the types of things you would expect such as photos I had uploaded, old messages etc. While I don’t think it included quite everything Facebook has on me, there were no real big surprises. In fact, if anything I expected Facebook to have more.

While I’m not excited about Facebook having my data, it’s simply the easiest way to stay in touch with people; it’s a price I and many of us have chosen to pay.

While there’s a lot to be said about the apparent lack of data security at Facebook and exposure to third parties in my experience even if they had the best security possible, it’s inevitable someone is going to ultimately crack it.

This is evident with everything from governments to multi-million dollar businesses having had breaches of security.

Given that scenario, we need much tighter regulations on what data companies can collect, more so than their security measures. Something of a similar nature that has been more publically discussed is DNA information. There seems to be a consensus of concern about insurance companies using them to deny people insurance based on their genetic make-up.

This is where it is important to discuss Google. Google’s security at least looking on from the outside is much better, with data being much more difficult to access for third parties.

However, Google also has, in my opinion, has information that’s much more sensitive.

For example, for Android users like myself, when I have my location tracking turned on, such as for navigation, Google collects that information; it keeps track of what stores and restaurants I visit most frequently, the GPS coordinates of my house etc.

This information to me is of much more concern. Similarly, Google knows what websites I visit, and should I use the newly announced Subscribe with Google, it knows what news I pay for.

This is just the information Google is currently collecting. Who knows what other information they’ll be collecting in five or 10 years.

We need to talk about what information companies can collect and make it painfully obvious to users what’s being collected and how to opt in or out; the security issue is minor in comparison to the discussion that needs to be had.


max.winkelman@100milefreepress.net

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