So the other day I read this bizarre news that a lot of Apple applications access as much as your intimate contact information without the knowledge of the phone owners. Just a few days back The New York Times ran an article on how companies store your email address or credit card number and then track every time you use it so that they understand what are your purchase preferences, your tastes and your favorite stores and so on. Take the Daily Mail’s article on this whole Target Corporation pregnancy matter. Based on the purchases a teenage girl was making, Target found out that the girl was pregnant. The astonishing part is that the girl’s father had no clue about the issue [Pun intended!! :)]. We are thus witnessing (and maybe unknowingly victimized due to) an unfortunate and inopportune upsurge in privacy invasion by the cold- hearted and ruthlessly commercial merchandisers. And all this is being done in such an incognizant manner that the user/ customer/ owner is completely unaware of their infiltration!
It is an abysmal situation where people are totally ignorant about the possible damage that this type of sabotage can lead to, let alone the sheer magnitude of the deleteriousness! I have no idea whether you know this, but everything you do on the web spider leaves a trail. And remember, someone is always tracking. For example you like something on Facebook or post it on Twitter or +1 it. Well, they know. They know what you like. They know what you read. They know what you post. And they create a sort of ‘info- store’ where a treasure trove of all your likes and dislikes are archived! Have you ever read all those ads under the head ‘Sponsored’ on your Facebook home page?? If you remove this advert then you are asked a ‘Why do you want to remove this?’ sort of question with 6-7 different option of reasons. They say this will help them provide you with better services over time. But what they do not say is that they will use this data feedback to form a data arcade and then shall come out with customized advertorial content for you. Age- specific. Taste specific. They are just like those sales- personnel knocking your door! Or those spam messages and phone calls you receive from credit card and insurance companies. Just like you don’t wish to give them your personal details, your savors etcetera, why should you give it out to a social networking site whose storage depository is more prone to a sabotage; that which is a hacker’s paradise?
My problem over here is not limited to the few brutal business barons who suck such sensitive data- keeping their consumers in dark for the sake of gaining an edge over their competitors in the name of ‘serving the consumers according to their preferences’ sort of nonsense; my problem is with the entire corporate attitude where they want to preempt what their clientele may require and then bombarding them with promotional vagaries in largesse so as to fill up their pockets with an almost monopolistic ease! These people are taking ‘customer loyalty’ to an hitherto unimaginable and socially detrimental levels where they tend to brainwash consumers by continuous advertorial pitches and blatant plagiarism! My problem is with the blissfully ignorant consumer base for whom privacy policies are still the cliched Greek and Latin! These consumers (which very naturally includes you and me) have to be more aware of their rights. And surely what is at stakes!
If what I am saying is sounding ludicrous, give this a thought. Why do you get spam in your mailbox? Because some unknown person with mala fide intentions has access to your email id. Assuming that you yourself have not given your mail id to such person, it means that they have received this information from the sites that you use!! And now imagine which accounts are attached to your e- mail id? Your bank accounts?? Your corporate data?? Your cell phone number?? Arguably, some important parts of your personal, academic and professional lives are stored on your mail box. And there are many ways in which this data can be manipulated to give you grief. And if this falls in the wrong hands it can be used to cause unbelievable levels of trepidation (which it already is!).
Who knows, in the next few months probably our text messages, our IMs and our on phone conversation may also be read into and stored by these mongrels. It is high time that we do make sure that our smart phones and tab- pads behave according to our choices. And for that we need to be aware. We need to read the privacy policies, keep ourselves updated about the latest deficiencies observed in the tech world. At least those associated with our devices or the sites on which we are registered. And it is not that difficult. Just find the right site and get a RSS Feed from there. They shall keep you constantly updated about these issues. Remember, just like you try and safeguard all your properties, the same way even your virtual property has to be shielded and armored.
This is the Sciolist.