For almost everyone technology has become intertwined with our everyday lives, through smartphones, smartwatches and our daily use of social media. The latest tech trend seems to take it a step further with digital assistance devices such as Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s HomePod. These digital devices give you the news, control music and lighting just by voice command but to do this, these devices must record every word it hears. Now this data is secured through each devices manufacturer and while breaches do happen its unlikely anyone will be able to use your new toy to eavesdrop on you but our universal acceptance of sharing our personal data has led our personality to be one of the most valuable commodities, and we are giving it away for free.
The fact that Google and Facebook monitor our habits while using their site would come as little surprise to most as the tech companies use our likes (literally with Facebook) to learn more about us and use this information to create more customized advertisements that have a higher chance of being clicked on. In exchange for a breach in privacy we can use these services free of charge. These are terms most people have generally accepted and consider a fair trade to use services that many cannot imagine their life without it and these tech giants do have a reputation to uphold and are unlikely to use any data they obtain for malicious reasons, but many give their personal information away to hundreds of small tech companies without even realizing it.
What is likely the biggest lie on the internet “I have read and accepted the user terms and conditions” usually has many people unknowingly share their information as they use popular applications on their mobile devices. One popular flashlight app requires access to not only the camera to use the light, but also contact information, device and Wi-Fi data. To conduct an experiment, a Canadian app company conducted an experiment creating an astrology app as a front for data mining and was successfully able to extract personal information from the apps users.
Once developers have acquired this information, often legally, they are then free to sell it to the highest bidder who will could use this information against you. Sometimes the harm can be minimal as this information is used as part of a wide study, other times it can be more invasive as advertisements are custom made to you, but the possibility will always exist of companies going after your personal data for illicit reasons including access to banking information.
Everything always has a price, so the next time you download a free app on your phone, look more carefully as the cost to use the app may be way higher than you think.
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