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CATALYST/online privacy

MOST UNKNOWN PRIVACY DANGERS by Greg Sparrow

Now more than ever before, “big data” is a term that is widely used by businesses and consumers alike. Consumers have begun to better understand how their data is being used, but many fail to realize the hidden dangers in every day technology. From smart phones, to smart TVs, location services, and speech capabilities, user data is often stored without your knowledge. Here are some of the most common yet hidden privacy dangers facing consumers today.

...user data is often stored without your knowledge...

GEO-LOCATION. Geo-Location can be convenient, especially when you’re lost or need GPS services. However, many fail to realize that any information surrounding your location is stored and archived, and then often sold to a third party who wants to use that information for a wide variety of reasons. Are you aware that data is often collected during your shopping experiences? A variety of stores will purchase location information to determine how long a customer browsed in a particular aisle, so that they can further market to those customers in the future—promoting similar products. The information may seem harmless, but would you feel that same way if you saw a physical person following you around collecting the same information?

SOCIAL MEDIA. Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Instagram are all social media services that are provided to individuals for “free,” but have you wondered what the 106

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real cost might be? It is often said that if you don’t have to pay for the service, then you probably are the service. The hidden cost for using these social media sites is the forfeit of personal information for the social media sites to sell and thus profit from. Google and Yahoo can read their customers' personal email. Isn’t your personal email just that—personal? Another unknown fact about Facebook is that they can create “ghost profiles” using facial recognition for people who do not have an account, but appear in someone else’s photos. During the Dakota Pipeline Protests, Facebook sold the private chat messages of its users who were discussing the matter to the FBI and local police, as well as private security companies who further reported inside information directly to the pipeline company. Because the information was “for sale,” the police didn’t need a warrant to obtain confidential information—they simply needed to buy it.

WEB BROWSERS AND APPS. Before smart phones existed, “apps” were nonexistent. Anything accessed now through an app, was before accessed through an internet browser. The web browser on a smart phone is what is referred to in the cyber security industry as “sandboxed,” meaning it cannot access general data on the system or control hardware. An installed app, however, can be coded to do anything it wants to gain access to any hardware the user has control of. Take the History Channel, for example; if a user accesses the site from a laptop, they can access the entire website without a problem. However, if accessed through a web browser on a smart phone, the user is promoted to “download the app.” Many times, if you do not download the app, the website will disable you from viewing or using it, forcing you to download the app and giving up your personal information in the process. After downloading the app, it asks for permission to access the camera and the microphone on your device. This is because the app is storing personal information of its users outside of what happens within the History Channel app you just downloaded. SPEECH SOFTWARE & SMART TVS. Speech software such as Cortana, Alexa, and Siri have become increasingly popu-

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