Safety, Security & Privacy—one or two, can we have all three? Do we have to give up one or two to have one? Has the notion of privacy become obsolete?
Before the digital age of the Technojungle I don’t recall thinking too much about safety, security, and privacy of my information. These privileges of life related primarily with regard to the physical world. At school we had the Safety Patrol to help children cross the streets near the school. Security was a person in a blue uniform who watched over places to make sure nobody intruded or stole something. And then there was the privacy of my own home. It was all pretty simple and straight forward until one day I began to realize that things were quite different in the digital online world of the Technojungle. It was not as easy, if not impossible, to be sure of how safe, secure and private my information—my life—actually was. I was shocked to discover that many people, mostly young, didn’t seem to care, probably because staying on top of these three was simply too difficult. Then tech company CEOs and other experts began to announce that privacy was a thing of the past. Does that mean that safety and security are also a thing of the past? Judging from the track records of tech companies, can I trust what they tell me is their truth concerning safety, security, and privacy?
Take a short mind safari back through human history. Can you describe some of the threats we humans have lived under? Haven’t safety, security and privacy always been of huge concern? Why should today be any different? How might safety, security and privacy issues be different today? Do you feel you are in control of your safety, security and privacy both in the Technojungle physical world and online?
When you leave your house, you are probably careful to lock the door. If somebody really wants to get in though, they can easily break a window. Locking the door does provide some deterrent and peace of mind, not to mention the insurance issues that could result from the robbery of an unlocked house. If someone could just walk into your house and take something, you would have some difficulties with your insurance claim. So we lock the door and enjoy some level of feeling safe, secure and private. Do you feel safe when you lock the doors of your home, vehicle, or any other private place?
I can recall a time when folks never locked their doors. This may still be the case in very remote private places, but I am talking about in the suburbs of the city. In a few short decades, we have become a “…lock the door and keep out the world…” society. Many people today in Technojungle city condominium complexes have multiple levels of security to get through to their home. They use a special key fob that can be waved over a sensor to open doors and take them in the elevator to a specific floor of the building. Sometimes the only way to connect with these people is virtually through our Technojungle electronic devices. When I was young, we didn’t have much in the way of expensive electronic devices. Perhaps the TV, radio, or stereo, but they were huge pieces of furniture—not easily hauled away down the street.
If we are so careful about our physical houses and belongings, why does it seem so complicated to protect our online Technojungle life and make it safe, secure and private—more human? Locking all my Technojungle doors is a difficult situation because I can’t just go buy a better lock and turn the key to achieve my feeling of safety. If I do find some sort of lock, I can’t be sure I got it set correctly, that it doesn’t get changed at dome point, or that it even truly works as I expect. How confident to you feel about the software settings you have configured for your online activities and on your various devices? You can’t sort of tug at them like you might with a padlock, or turn a door knob and tug at the door to check it. In the end, how do you get insurance on your data and information?
I have observed on my safaris, that it seems for most people, the task Technojungle safety, security and privacy is just too daunting. Have you given up and don’t care, perhaps thinking that your information is going to be taken no matter what you do? I wonder if most people have simply decided to leave security and privacy of their data and information in the hands of the corporations that provide the services they use. How safe or secure are these corporations? Isn’t this just more unexpected baggage that we should deal with? It is dehumanizing.
The other day I visited a website and a page popped up displaying a lot of information about my computer system and some information about me. That was with Private Browsing turned on. What kind of privacy and security do we have when information can be sucked from us even when we believe we are safe? Can we actually protect ourselves in the Technojungle? The information was not very personal, however suddenly seeing it was creepy.
We eagerly offer large amounts of information to Technojungle corporations, both willingly and by being seduced or even tricked. It seems like most software companies, and particularly apps on devices, are requiring, not just a registration fee, but an online account with their computer server. I’ve noticed a number of apps are now free. Sometimes they show up as on sale for free. After you download it and get interested in using it, you find that the only way to actually make use of the app is to pay a subscription fee. This goes beyond offering a functional product with a pay pro or premium version. Often we may start with what we believe is a free version of software, only to find we need an account and pay an often very large fee. I see it as a fee to give them our information, or at least put our information at risk on an unknown server.
While this may seem like simply a way to get more money from us, what they are really after is your information which they can store on their servers and sell. Even if Technojungle companies say they are not going to use your information, small companies and even large ones, get purchased by the even bigger ones and user information adds greatly to the value of the company being purchased. I have a hard time believing that a Technojungle company gathering my personal data and information can continue to keep it private forever. Even if they try, there can be acquisitions by other companies which have different policies, or hackers can grab the information. Occasionally I hear of a breach of information by an internal employee who either willingly or mistakenly lets information get into the wrong Technojungle hands. We have also seen instances of larger companies sharing data and information with smaller companies who provide a value added service or feature to what the larger company does.
Most, and I have heard all, corporations, including institutions, agencies and governments, are being hacked into. Some on a daily basis. I hear of these assaults often in the news, however, I’m sure most breaches of systems do not get much publicity because they are so prevalent and common. It must be embarrassing for a corporation. Usually, it is our personal information that the hackers are after.
This is not trivial stuff. Did you ever stop to think that in the Technojungle, you are your information? That information footprint you are making daily on the Internet is who you are as a human being in the online Technojungle world. This is what other corporations and identity thieves want—you. An associate of mine who specializes in identity theft calls it personal terrorism.
I believe most cyber attacks, or hacking, never gets reported because often the intrusions go undetected. Also, if we actually knew the extent of cyber attacks on corporations, and particularly banks and government agencies, we might have a complete loss of confidence in the Technojungle systems we rely on for our society to function. That would mean countless losses of profits for Technojungle corporations. The perpetrators of these cyber attacks are the bank robbers of this future world we now live in. This sort of thing was unheard of and unimaginable when I was growing up. This is huge unexpected baggage.
Some years ago, I had a compromise of one of my credit cards to the tune of nearly $11,000. While the credit card company assured me that I would not be responsible for the balance, it took months to sort out. This caused no end of confusion and frustration as I continued to receive statements and watched interest being charged monthly to the card which had actually been cancelled on the spot. I certainly felt dehumanized. These sorts of events are becoming an all too common occurrence in our Technojungle life. As I related my ordeal to people in conversations, I was amazed at how common my situation was. It is like talking about cancer. Everybody has, or knows somebody who has, been affected by cancer. Cyber crime and identity theft through the Technojungle is becoming as common as cancer in our society. Has cyber crime or identity theft happened to you? How did you feel? Maybe it has and you don’t know about it.
It was not the first time for me, although it was the most severe and invasive. Another time, I simply got a letter, yes, paper through the postal system, explaining that the credit card company determined my card number fell within a range of numbers that may have been compromised. Now there is a polite and less impactful way of saying that my personal information may have been stolen by somebody skulking around in the Technojungle.
It seems to me that using the word compromise in this context downplays the seriousness of the issue. Compromise is often a word we use when we reach an agreement in a sticky situation. Anyway, the letter continued saying: “…my card had been cancelled and a new one had been issued.” I could expect it within two weeks. What if a compromised credit card that was automatically cancelled was your only card and the primary method of purchasing what you required to live on? It is a good thing that I have more than one card. But, suppose it was a card on which I had automatic payments made each month through the Technojungle for something like life insurance and I missed a payment? You would have to inconveniently make alternative arrangements, something that would add much additional stress to an already stressful situation.
I actually have three wallets of cards. When chip cards, sometimes called smart cards, came along, I did some reading about RFID (Radio-frequency identification) technology and discovered that a cheap scanner could be used to essentially steal my personal information right out of my wallet while it was still in my pocket. So, I purchased a metal wallet. I actually needed another wallet because my main one was bulging with too many cards. I am always juggling a stack of, not only credit cards, but loyalty, gift, point collecting, the list of cards goes on. My third wallet is for my business cards and a few cards of lesser importance. Now this is actually physical baggage I have in my pocket. How many cards do you have and how do you keep them? How do you think the Technojungle companies are working to resolve the card problems?
Consider the digital ID vaccination scenario mentioned in the previous chapter. Would your personal information be safer if it was part of your body?
The Technojungle has grown over the years and I have seen on safari how we have been encouraged, even forced, to surrender more of our personal information to services on the Internet and the corporations of the Technojungle. It seems that there are those out there who would like us to do everything possible through the Internet and Technojungle. From storing our files in the cloud to doing every sort of communication we can possibly do through the Internet, even communications we don’t need to do, or even want to do. It must be like a game. See how many ways to get more information from people.
Why do corporations want us to store all our information, do all our communicating, and do so many of our activities through the online Technojungle even when it is not necessary? I say it’s because it leaves a trail through the Technojungle. It gets recorded and saved. We humans are leaving our digital, virtual, online footprints in the Technojungle for others to use to their own advantage. Remember, we are our information which is valuable and can be sold. Does part of what actually makes us human include our information? The future is here and we have two lives.
The Stasi was a Cold War, East German organization that spied on German citizens, gathering personal information for almost 40 years. The Stasi employed a massive number of citizens to do the spying and has been said to be the most effective spying and espionage organization that has ever existed. That is, until computers and the Internet. Today people using the online Technojungle freely give away, through many services, but particularly social media, the kinds of information the Stasi went to such great lengths to collect.
Who would want to buy information about you? Advertisers would for one. Do you believe that your life is not influenced by advertising? If that were true, the advertising industry would not be as huge as it is. Corporations and businesses spend billions and billions of dollars on advertising each year because they can manipulate our lives substantially enough to warrant such expenditures.
Be aware, this is not just information we submit to the Technojungle willingly. There is even more information collected from us unwillingly and unknowingly. I am convinced that nearly everything we do, every step we take in the Technojungle, can be tracked and traced. Everything can be recorded and stored in huge databases. We live in a world of massive piles of information, which includes our personal information. Do you believe that since it is so scattered all over the Internet Technojungle that it’s rather useless because it gets lost in the monstrous Info-abyss of data that nobody could possibly sort through? That is, no human.
That may have been the case years ago, however, now super computers of the Technojungle linked together can mine the data for useful information. They gather and associate, either accurately or inaccurately, all the tiny pieces of data you have left unprotected and even protected on the Internet Technojungle. Aren’t corporations building your online body by extracting all the bits and pieces they mine from all over the Technojungle? They construct and assemble these bits and pieces into something that represents who you are, human or not. Mining of the Industrial Age was for coal, metals, oil, etc. Mining is the Information Age is called Data Mining and it involves personal information about people and the world we live in.
Since who you are in the Technojungle is your information, and those who have this information actually see to own it, aren’t we essentially being owned by corporations? At this point in our early lives in the Technojungle, can we possibly fathom what this might mean in the future?
Even though we may notice, perhaps only a fraction, of what is happening to our safety, privacy and security, don’t we get lured into the traps of the Technojungle? We are out there, exposed and open for the picking. Those who wish and have the means can, pluck bits of us up. It is almost as if we need to always be on the look out for the traps corporations set in the Technojungle to snare our personal information.
In a free society, shouldn’t safety, security and privacy be a right? What can result without this right? It’s time to look over the state of you safety and security, and to consider your options. What actions could you take? Check your activities as they relate to privacy. It’s time to start practicing some privacy hygiene. What steps can you take?
The point of this book is to get us to think about issues concerning the Technojungle and how they affect our lives as human beings. I am not here to provide solutions. The solutions must come from and for each of you from your own safaris and discoveries of being human beings in the Technojungle.
Safety, security and privacy are huge and important issues to contend with in the Technojungle. It is difficult to know just how safe, secure and private our Technojungle lives are and most of us may avoid thinking about this. Our daily activities contribute to a rapidly growing Technojungle and in that sense are we humans are feeding it?