The initial stages of coming up with a solution requires an understanding of the problem we’re dealing with, and the problem is of data. As we live in a world where everything is connected, it becomes harder to ignore somewhat of a sentience that the internet has garnered. This sentience helps you to have to a global identity. If you have an account with X, you can use that account to sign up with Y and Z. The idea is earnest and surely, meant in good faith. Having to remember credentials for one account is easier than three.
The CEO of Apple recently said:
Well, I’d like to rephrase that into, “a monopoly by itself isn’t bad only if it isn’t also the one deciding what abuse means.” or rather simply, “a monopoly is bad.“
Apple recently dropped their plans for end-to-end encryption on iCloud. End to end encryption enables an user to have access to their data through their password or sometimes a key. Without which, the same data is a random sequence of strings that does not make sense. More than one person has been vocal about it.
Our singlular identity expands through multiple accounts across multiple websites and eventually we end up relying on at least one of these two brokers:
What could go wrong? Our phones are signed into Google all the time anyways and the first thing we do after buying a phone is install Facebook, Messenger and if not, at least WhatsApp. There’s nothing to hide anyways.
But I don’t have anything to hide.
If there were really nothing to hide since we spend most of our time doing nothing wrong, does it make sense to have passwords? Since passwords have to be remembered, kept secret but are occasionally forgotten, have you considered sharing them with your best buddy who might help you at the time of need? You know, they won’t look. If you don’t have a best friend, have you considered emailing all your passwords to one or both of your parents? Surely, they are trustworthy, right?
It’s the same innate need for a private space that makes us get curtains for our homes or the doors guarding them. If you are not comfortable with someone close to you going through your personal data, how complacent would you be when a stranger at the other end of the world has free reign over it?
Google is good though… right?
When you’re in the data business, a person by themselves has little to no worth. An isolated data point doesn’t tell you a lot. It’s the network you build that makes you worthwhile.
But how is that network built?
Do you remember checking your email on your favourite browser and how that sign-in to gmail also signed you into the browser itself? Seamless. Do you remember signing into your brand new smartphone and how contacts, emails and all the important dates on your calendar magically appeared? Do you remember getting 15 gigabytes of free storage on Google Drive and how all your photos, old and new, appeared online when you weren’t looking? Did you know that most of the world also gets to have the same magic… for free?
If you answered, “yes” to the above questions then you must also remember what I said about a company having too much power. Google promises to never sell your data but it doesn’t mention that it bids, shares and monetizes it all the same. Or does it?
The key to breaking free isn’t about bringing in a dramatic change all at once. A sudden lapse of habit only ends in recurrence. The idea is to understand what is happening and how you enable it to, and how you can stop it. Disconnect from one account at a time. Switch from one service at a time. Break free from one chain at a time.
Scary and eye opening at the same time
“I don’t have anything to hide” used to be my goto reply everytime I read or came across anything involving data privacy. After making a few changes since last year, it has been a constant process of learning new things everyday. This initiative that you have taken with your technical diary, to keep the crowd informed deserves appreciation. Kudos to you.
All I wish is, everyone reads this article, so that they realize the price which they pay for this connected world, especially those who think there’s nothing to hide.
As one security expert once said, “privacy means everyone being on the same platform and each having a choice whether they want to be discoverable or not.”