During the final days of his presidency, Obama agreed to reduce the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the US soldier that released classified information to Wikileaks in 2010. This release of information created a space where privacy and sharing of information became public discussion points. One of these points surrounded what exactly people were agreeing to in their ‘terms and conditions’ of services such as Apple products, mobile phone contracts, and the services that social networks provide.
The usual response by those who are unsure of to what extent personal information is being processed and shared is the rhetoric used by government with CCTV – ‘If I’ve got nothing to hide, I’ve got nothing to fear.’ To an extent I can see the perspective, but on that basis if you have nothing to hide in your home, feel free to leave your doors unlocked. The reason you lock your home is the same reason you should put some time in to become a little more savvy with the privacy settings of your tech – you don’t want your personal things (be it physical items or digital data) being taken without your consent. For example, did you know that by default iPhones have a ‘frequent locations’ function active by default on your phone’s settings? This means that if you visit the same location, let’s say three times, your phone creates a physical log of the location. It does this with any and every location. Now granted it could be argued that this is to optimise services provided to you by Apple, but personally I think if that is the case why isn’t this something they promote? I myself only found this function by being told, and have since only spoken to a handful of people who knew the function existed. But by building these travel patterns, more data is added to your persona as the consumer, thus making your data more of a valuable asset to Apple, or other companies. I have had this feature disabled on my iPhone 6 since three months after taking my contract out in April 2015 and there has been no change to the functionality of my device.
Moving from your personal device to the profiles we set ourselves for social media accounts. Again by default, Facebook sets all of your data to ‘public’ when you create an account. Now this isn’t to help you ‘connect to others around you’ as I don’t know about you, but my Facebook account was created so I could keep in contact with friends and family, adding to my friends list as I meet new people. None of that requires my profile to be public, and in fact my personal profile is as private as I could make it. People can still find me. I can still network. I am still connecting to those around me. The essence of making your profile public as you create your account is that you need to explicitly state that you do not want this information sharing, rather than the other way round, and gives Facebook as much time to siphon your valuable personal information as they can. Someone once said to me that it’s fine if Facebook operate as a business, the public just also have to see it as one. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Take the time to search through your devices and profiles to see how much information and location information is shared without your knowledge, if they think it’s valuable then you should too!
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