Is Our Privacy Severely Under Threat Online?

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Nearly 3.2 billion people are active users on the internet as of April 2019, that is 56.1% of the world's population and its fan base is increasing rapidly as new users are pushed in the stack every second. We can all agree that we are in a phase where life without internet seems like living under a rock as it has become a substantial part of our lives be it because of fast access to the information or due to the bridge it provides between our loved ones. Just get a data pack and you are ready to measure the depths of this ocean. Yeah, it's too good to be true because at the end of the day we are all humans who need to survive in this cutthroat world, so you may be asking how do these tech giants sustain? Well, it's quite simple, we are the reason behind all those revenues.

How Service Providers Gain Access 

Tech giants like Google and Facebook, maintain your profile in their databases based upon your interests, your location history, your age, and your hobbies. These profiles are a result of smart & hungry algorithms which keeps an eye on what you browse over the internet, once you make a move on the browser, your profile is produced which is polished every time you search for something new. After your profile is ready, these firms know what you want to buy or what are your interests in, so they show you ads related to your interests exclusively. 

A pool of advertisers pay Google to display these ads, then these firms aim the right users to a product and this is how these tech giants stand so tall today. Some of you may think that it's fine to receive relevant ads, but the majority thinks that it is a direct invasion to their privacy as any kind of data breach will leave you vulnerable.

"Good For Business, Bad For Consumers" 

Based on our profiles online, our news feed is manipulated at an extent, beyond our imagination. This was severely highlighted during the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, where the data of 30 million users was used to manipulate their political decisions via advertisement, without an individual's consent.

"Facebook, Twitter, Instagram they've made us a society of stalkers.", this quote from "13 Reasons Why" surfaces the postmodern world problems. The Internet helps us to connect to people, separated by boundaries and helps us keep a track on what were they up to the past hour? To connect well we update sensitive content on the web, without giving a second thought, be it the movie we just watched, or the restaurant we just passed by. Even though social media websites have gained our trust on our data being stored at their servers, securely, but they are still vulnerable, which can be easily seen in the events of a data breach, where sensitive information of millions of people is leaked every year, which is often misused by an attacker.

If you ever noticed, you could see that the keyboards which you use on your phone keep getting better and better with their next word predictions, did you ever wonder why? These keyboard apps first collect all our data which we type, be it our passwords or the texts intended for our loved ones, the data is then used to improve the predictions, and it gets better and better as our usage increases/continues. This data is usually stored on the servers and if the servers are attacked, one could easily access our private information.

Though companies now use the incognito mode when you type a password(your keystrokes won't be monitored when you type), but still, it doesn't work with all the apps/websites, and other than passwords almost everything is under surveillance--for our own good they say--.

Internet of Things (IoT) 

 As of 2019 IoT(Internet of Things) is one of the fastest growing techs and it sure deserves its hype. IoT is a small network of devices connected to the internet, like your phone, smartwatch, assistants, smart TV, smart electrical appliances, all connected together. They communicate with each other with the help of the internet to carry out your daily tasks. Smart assistants like Google Home always need to keep their microphone active in order to serve you well, and this has proven to be a big threat a while back when a bug in Google Home recorded users voice without their consent. Also, when you give them a command it's recorded and saved by Google to improve its services and to track you better on the Internet. Besides this, some of the IoT devices do not come with standard security firmware and they could be easily penetrated by a professional hacker to get inside your network. Though assistants like Alexa are now providing a feature to delete your recordings, our privacy still hangs on the cliff.

Safety Measures 

You must be panicking by what you've just read, but as you know nothing interesting is ever completely one-sided and the internet has it's upside too. It's hard to stay out of the reach of these mammoth claws which are trying to engulf us every second, but even the smallest steps can make a difference. 

So, the next time you search for anything online, do it in an incognito window or you can use a VPN to save yourself from any spyware attacks and regularly clear your data saved on the websites you use as firms like Google, offer you this option. 

Additionally, if you don't want to be tracked by your past searches, you can use a search engine like DuckDuckGo("").  Also, think twice before uploading any sensitive content on any social networking website. 

It is ultimately up to us to strike a balance between our work online and safety on the internet. What matters is to be aware of the consequences of our online presence. 

- Sachin Kumar

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