In terms of online reputation, this has been arguably one of those years where the term lacks a practical use: not long ago, the biggest malware attack the world has ever seen hit hundreds —if not thousands— of companies worldwide, and its fallout is still lingering across the globe. In short, this has not been a good year, and we at ReputationDefender are not even talking about the «real» world: it just takes a simple glimpse at the most prominent eventualities in terms of online privacy worldwide to tremble in fear.
Simply put, as of the emergence of the digital era, since 2016 the digital world has not been very friendly.
This, although partially true, does not mean that experts in the technology industry have not made any progress in regard to the protection of personal information, yet they, and we, seem to be constantly challenged by new forms of violations, which prevents real and formative changes from happening. And, as for these new ways of privacy violations, we at ReputationDefender have compiled several ways the digital world has used to get past the boundaries of online privacy —which, certainly, suggest a reconsideration of what people use online.
WhatsApp is not as safe as it used to be
The app used to pride itself on its privacy approach, but then Facebook appeared —and bought it.
Soon after being acquired by Facebook, the app announced that, under the new version of its terms and conditions, it would now be sharing the users’ information with Facebook. Of course, it did not take long for WhatsApp to assert that such changes were in fact in the best interest of its users, for only then it would be possible to act against spam and increase business-to-consumer communication.
Uber and its rides
As of its dawn, Uber has faced many updates. One of these updates allows now the app to track users’ locations even though they are not logged in or using the application. After being confronted over this issue, Uber asserted that such data collection was for analysis purposes only —and an alleged subsequent improvement—; however, that is no less than questionable and debatable, for no action of such nature can be considered acceptable. In fact, it is not. Earlier in 2016, Uber was forced to pay a $20,000 fine to the Federal Trade Commission for providing unauthorized third-party access to all sorts of personal information and using aerial tracking technologies to identify passengers and riders.
Android and China
It is well known that Google tracks the location, the origin of text messages and almost every call log of its users who happen to use Android-based devices. What was not that well known, and fairly unbeknownst to the public, was that that information was not only allocated in Google’s facilities, but also in a no less than odd server in China. To make things scarier, such channel or back door comes via a pre-installed monitoring software —which suggests that this is not a case of malware or a security breach whatsoever—: it is part of Android itself. American authorities ignore whether such data is being acquired for advertising purposes or any governmental surveillance. Whichever the case, the scenario is not comforting at all.
The Fitbit disaster
2016 saw the genesis of a plethora of fitness tracking devices, which, in spite of being a truly helpful resource, revealed a huge flaw in terms of personal data protection. After revising the state of the art in terms of sensitive patient information, in the 21st century, there is little to none protection of people’s health information. Every single piece of information that is shared with products from businesses such as Fitbit is, afterward, sold to brokers and advertisers.
Gotta catch ’em all
It is undeniable that the hype and fuss created by Pokémon Go were huge. Very huge, indeed; however, at what price? And that should be the real question. The hype that arose about Pokémon Go managed to conceal a much darker fact: the app required access to the user’s entire Google account on iOS —including location data, e-mail, and web browsing history. Pokémon Go definitely needs to evaluate the user’s surroundings: where do they go and for how long, but their e-mail? That sounds like a bit much. That is practically an useful example of what creepy stands for. Not even Foursquare or Facebook can reach that level of tracking: Pokémon Go has gone much further and is able to monitor every step, literally the user takes.
However, and be that as it may, the game is great, though, but its privacy policies are worryingly weak, not to say pretty much non-existent. Such practices are more common than what initially meets the eye; it is advisable to always think twice before agreeing to every policy that comes with a fancy app —it would not be nice to see companies laying their hands on what is not theirs, especially personal information.
* Featured Image courtesy of Alok Sharma at Pexels.com