We live in an age of contradictions. We often yearn for privacy! Yet, on the other hand we are seemingly prepared to “share” our lives – and often in matters otherwise confidential – with the world via the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Linkedin is also a now widely-employed vehicle whereby we reveal everything about our work-experience, schooling and even hobbies and leisure activities. And not least of all, we are apparently quite happy to accept that all manner of details about ourselves (think bank accounts and medical details amongst others) are stored somewhere “up there” in the Cloud – not that most people know what that really means!
The now almost daily revelation of some large corporation somewhere in the world being hacked can be taken as a given. Check out a variety of pieces with details, and the type of hacks, over recent times, here, here and here.
Bottom line we are now so vulnerable and exposed to everything being known about ourselves, and readily accessible to anyone, that we ought to be more than concerned. The ramifications of such information becoming “public” can be significant. Just 2 examples. Think of medical records being available to anyone for the rest of our lives or one’s identity being stolen.
Now comes news that banks are working on software which will be allow them to work out exactly what our interests and movements are, and even establish what we are planning doing – so that a product or service can be “pushed” to us. George Orwell’s 1984 seems to be alive and well in 2016.
“Thanks to advances in computing power and customers’ embrace of digital finance, banks know more than ever about what their customers are up to: whether it’s browsing the web, shopping online, visiting the mall, or interacting on social media.
Already, they are busily harnessing this vast amount of data to sell products to customers before they ask for them: pushing travel insurance to someone who’s just bought airline tickets, or suggesting a home loan to the newlywed couple. But over the coming years, it is set to get much more tailored to the individual, and far more widespread.
As the traditional business of banking faces growing competition from new digital rivals, experts predict banks will increasingly be pushed into targeting customer “experiences” as they seek to remain relevant, and highly profitable.
Inevitably, however, this will involve a tension between what customers regard as the bank being helpful, and when it veers into the territory of ‘Big Brother’.”
Into the mix needs to be added that governments are increasingly snooping on us via the use of metadata. And then there are government computer systems being hacked – as a piece in The New York Times details in a piece how the USA’s computer system was extensively breached:
“The Obama administration on Thursday revealed that 21.5 million people were swept up in a colossal breach of government computer systems that was far more damaging than initially thought, resulting in the theft of a vast trove of personal information, including Social Security numbers and some fingerprints.
Every person given a government background check for the last 15 years was probably affected, the Office of Personnel Management said in announcing the results of a forensic investigation of the episode, whose existence was known but not its sweeping toll.
The agency said hackers stole “sensitive information,” including addresses, health and financial history, and other private details, from 19.7 million people who had been subjected to a government background check, as well as 1.8 million others, including their spouses and friends. The theft was separate from, but related to, a breach revealed last month that compromised the personnel data of 4.2 million federal employees, officials said.”
So evidently concerned is Microsoft about the extent of hacking , that it has just announced that it will in future notify users if their account has been targeted or hacked:
Scott Charney, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing division, said: “We will now notify you if we believe your account has been targeted or compromised by an individual or group working on behalf of a nation state.
“We’re taking this additional step of specifically letting you know if we have evidence that the attacker may be ‘state-sponsored’ because it is likely that the attack could be more sophisticated or more sustained than attacks from cybercriminals and others.”
It is incumbent on each of us to reverse the trend of foregoing our privacy – for it will never be possible to recapture it. We most certainly ought to take steps to ensure that it is we who are in control of our affairs. Paramount in all of that is that we safeguard all information about us, and no less importantly, restrict any details about ourselves and where our critical documents personal are to be found, to no more than a small number of trusted persons.