Privacy is the single greatest issue facing humanity

Privacy is the single greatest issue facing western humanity. We must not let COVID or environmental issues cloud this. We must not drop the ball in 2021 because unless we act now, the world as we know it will soon be gone. Strong words, but we need stronger actions.

Australians live in a democracy with basic human rights to privacy within our home and lives. But this has been torn asunder by the very tools that we thought would help us. These tools share three things in common:

  1. They all use the internet as the delivery mechanism.
  2. They operate outside outdated and inadequate general laws and privacy provisions.
  3. And apart from illegal drug dealers are the only other industry that calls us ‘users’.

Let’s look at the big FAANG targets

I am not so worried about some FAANG members (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google and by inference Microsoft). These are all brilliant US-based companies. Some appear to be prepared to work within whatever legal frameworks and ethical constraints placed upon them. If you have to trust any tech companies, it is Google, Microsoft and Apple as these underpin all computing and communication devices.

Privacy is the single greatest issue

Google

Google Android is on about 80% of the world’s smartphones. In Australia, Google Assistant speakers have 70-80% of the market. Well over 30% of homes now have at least one. Google is not benevolent, but it shows signs of responsibility. It uses Android and Assistant as thinly disguised data-harvesters to feed over 80% of its main business – advertising. Can you trust Google? Google does not sell data to advertisers. I would like to see a far bigger regulatory stick ensuring compliance with best practice.

Microsoft

Microsoft has completed its rebirth as a cloud-first company. By inference, Windows is the trusted platform on over 80% of PCs (desktop, laptop, tablet) users. Most businesses use Microsoft 365 – Office, Outlook, OneDrive, Teams, Azure etc. About 50% of office suite consumers use this paid product. Can you trust Microsoft? In so far as advertising is not its business model then yes. Ditto to the regulatory stick.

Apple

Apple has about 50% of the smartphone market share in Australia. That includes a lot of refurbished, second hand and superseded models. Globally it now has about 13% of all sales, and it must supplement its hardware income with ‘services’. To do that it has converted several free services (like Apple Health to paid Fitness+) and introduced a new range of Apple ‘subscription’ products – TV+, News, Music, Arcade and more to come. Apple’s profit margin is 64% on services and 32% on hardware. Can you trust Apple? Apple does not sell data to advertisers. The US Government is calling for Apple to be broken up – hardware and services separation.

And some that you would be wise to tread carefully with

Facebook and its data harvesting apps include Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, Watch, Portal, Giphy, and many more. These rip away any semblance of privacy under the guise of free social media services. Can you trust Facebook? Absolutely not and the US Government wants it broken up to remove monopoly practices. #Delete Facebook – I do not have a Facebook account anymore.

Amazon is a retail behemoth in the US, not so much in Australia. Amazon uses AI to learn absolutely everything about you and then uses it to sell you things you never knew you needed. Can you trust Amazon? I don’t trust anyone that knows more about me than I do. The problems with monopolies are that they often forget that the ‘client is king’.

But the biggest reason that privacy is the single greatest issue facing humanity is unregulated data harvesting apps.

Thank goodness we don’t live in China and have mandatory CCP spyware on every smartphone, need 100% verifiable ID to get a phone number or internet account and facial recognition cameras are on every corner. If surveillance, thought control and the Great Internet Wall of China works for President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party, so be it.

Some of the more popular Chinese apps that are purely data harvesters include

  • TikTok, Zoom, free ‘anything’ apps, smart home apps, security cameras and more are the wild, wild, west of data harvesting.
  • Popular security cameras (Hikvision/EZVIZ/EUFY et al.) have Chinese based clouds and reporting way more information back that is necessary for the service.
  • Popular Chinese robot vacs store way more information than needed in said clouds.
  • Free VPNs (most owned by Chinese companies) increasingly used for blackmail and sextortion.
  • Free Anti-virus (ditto) exfiltrating your data to said clouds.
  • Few of the ‘privacy conditions’ or terms of use offer any protection.

We simple repeat if the product is free; the product is you.

Privacy is the single greatest issue

And 44 Chinese apps that you may not know spy on you

All are free and all purport to do something ‘cool’ like anti-virus or web browsing. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Only a good paid AV solution like Norton 360, Kaspersky, Trend and McAfee can detect most spyware.

360 Security APUS Browser Baidu Map Baidu Translate
BeautyPlus CacheClear Clean Master CM Browser
DU apps studio DU Battery Saver DU Browser DU Cleaner
DU Privacy DU recorder ES File Explorer Mail Master
Mi Community Mi Store Mi Video call-Xiaomi NewsDog
Parallel Space Perfect Corp Photo Wonder QQ International
QQ Launcher. QQ Mail QQ Music QQ NewsFeed
QQ Player QQ Security Centre QU Video SelfieCity
SHAREit UC Browser UC News Vault-Hide
Virus Cleaner VivaVideo WeChat Weibo
WeSync Wonder Camera YouCam Makeup VPNPro

GadgetGuy’s take

Get the conversation going – Privacy is the single greatest issue facing humanity

In 2021 vow to

  • Read privacy conditions on all apps and be more discerning about the permissions they require.
  • Stop oversharing on social media. Ditch it if possible.
  • Stop giving away your data to any ‘so-called’ loyalty card or frequent users.
  • Never put anything online that can come back to bite you.
  • Never confirm personal information online, on the phone, via email or SMS.
  • Learn how to secure Windows, Android, iOS, Mac and more to enhance privacy.
  • Get the conversations going by spreading the word to family and friends about taking care online.

There is a great article here about internet privacy threats – What Could Potentially Take Our Privacy For Good This Year?

International Privacy Day is 28 January. Read more about the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) work here.

Privacy is the single greatest issue

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