Editorial: Securing your privacy

Our privacy is one of our most treasured rights, but it is too easy nowadays for that privacy to be invaded, sometimes without our knowledge. In this ever-changing world, innovation and technology are growing, leading to changes in the way we should approach issues of privacy.

The government has the ability to extract information from its citizens and this process is easier than the average person may think. Anything that is saved or put into a search engine is out there for anyone to access. Google has a vast storage system of everything that Internet users have searched in the past, and the government can find and store the information it is looking for via data mining.

Not only that, but Internet service providers can sell this metadata to businesses for commercial use. This does have its own benefits—companies can more easily market products that are likely to interest their customers, but there is also a downside. Businesses collect data from around the nation, and the encryption of this information isn’t always effective against the technology used by hackers. There is a plethora of attempted hacks in the United States every day, most of which are prevented by security systems. There are always successful hacks, leaving our information unprotected for all to see and use.

So how can we secure our data? We’ve reached an inflection point where it may be almost impossible to completely secure all of our data, but there are steps that can be taken to limit who can access our data. Knowing how others can easily access your data is the first step to protecting your data.

You can exercise caution when giving out your data; rather than blindly accepting terms for everything you see, think about where this information could go, and more importantly, how you would feel if that information got into the wrong hands. What about all of your University information that you want to keep secure? That information is just as important, but is as accessible as anything else that has ever been typed after it goes through SafeConnect.

Recently, a Facebook hoax has been circulating where users are posting a message forbidding Facebook to use their information posted on the social media platform. Unfortunately, this will have no effect on anything. The moment you make a Facebook account (or Twitter or Instagram for that matter), you are agreeing for your data to be freely used by  that website for any use it chooses. This example shows how the landscape of privacy is thinning every day.

As technology improves, it will become even harder to protect our privacy. Drones are another example of machines that can be used to spy and gain information. If a drone is flying over your own property, it is actually illegal to shoot it down. We may not know where it is coming from, who is controlling the drone, or what the video footage will be used for, so this feels like an invasion of our privacy—but there is nothing we can do about it.

Facebook and drones are just two examples that reveal  the lack of power we have over our data. Learning about our privacy is also the first step in protecting it. Taking calculated steps to monitor who receives your information is a good way to protect your privacy. We exist in a world where we cannot fully protect our privacy, but awareness can help fuel the motion to help safeguard it.

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