There has been an onslaught of war against privacy. Governments across the world are truly after the idea of “panoptikon”- a central hub to monitor all digital services. In US, Facebook/Google were spun off to provide a commercial angle. Ostensibly, they are advertising companies but that only sustains their snooping capabilities. It’s sad that they hire the best brains on the planet to serve advertisements to their users. Surveillance started off when it was realised that Internet connectivity could be sliced/diced/decrypted in any manner whatsoever, to spy on users.
We all have willingly handed over our data to companies. WhatsApp remains one prime example of how bad it can be. We don’t read privacy policies, we hand our access permissions to applications without a second thought and are only concerned about instant gratification. We leak our GPS data (location) continuously which allows these companies to know our patterns of life exactly. How much thought have we given to this?
The next wave of privacy onslaught was started by Apple by deliberately restricting the space on devices and forcing users to upload their data in the “cloud”; essentially data centres that run sophisticated algorithms to detect even more information about us. They have sharpened their “artificial intelligence” from voice queries, listen to our conversations all the times and have perfected facial recognition that is shared with anonymous entities and law enforcement.
We all have done this; knowingly and unknowingly.
Privacy, my dear readers, is ethereal. We don’t realise about it, unless it’s gone.
So far, the focus has been on gathering information. One of the biggest stumbling blocks I face is to answer the question. What is it that companies/ hackers are going to target a single individual.
Privacy matters. I’ll quote from Glen Greenwald who’s done much work in this area.
“The reason is that when were in a state where we can be monitored or can be watched, our behavior changes dramatically. …Mass surveillance creates a prison in the mind that is a much more subtle, though much more effective, means of fostering compliance with social norms or with social orthodoxy, and is much more effective than brute force could ever be.”
Watch the famous Ted Talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/glenn_greenwald_why_privacy_matters
It’s not limited to that. Facebook indulges in these experiments all the time. No questions asked on how it manipulates your thought process.
More than privacy; I’ll like to highlight another burgeoning area of concern. In addition to real time monitoring and surveillance, Indian government has started centralised monitoring services (a clearinghouse for all digital communications) to have real time tabs on what is being discussed. The details are hazy and classified. In addition, it’s also added Aadhar; it’s akin to social security number but linked to every possible government database.
Skeptics have raised eyebrows and mainstream media is full of dire warnings. It’s clear that the idea of Aadhar linkage to other services is unlikely to be rolled back (despite number of articles written about it here,here (pdf file) and here.
However, one point is clearly lost in the din. Governments and corporations alike are going to persist with data collection, no matter what. They have smelt blood now.
Most nation state actors and “hackers” are not going to break their heads on encryption but will find it easy to tap in networks themselves to identify “metadata”. WhatsApp may be encrypted but it’s metadata is up for grabs. Your location, whom you talk to, your voice samples, your video access and infact everything about your life is recorded. The actual content of messages is inconsequential.
How does BlackBerry figure here?
BlackBerry’s unique software focus is the key for enterprises to tap into. By creating secured partitions for computing devices, most malware is unlikely going to get escalated privileges. The IT administrators can set up granular controls. Videos/Mics can be disabled. Secured document sharing allows safer access to our details. Priv/DTEK50/60- all of them have secured hardened linux kernels that prevent malicious software (often in apps) to gain access to your sensitive files. Users can easily see which app is leaking sensitive data by DTEK (not possible on any other platform).
Indeed, the whole gamut of enterprise security can be applied to individual case scenarios as well.
And BlackBerry can easily leverage its secured credentials to protect databases from known vulnerabilities. Indeed, it has a strong market to go after banks/financial institutions/enterprises and even privacy aware individual customers to ensure safety/security.
As always, in these dangerous times, it’s important to minimise our accessible information in order to narrow the possible attack surface. The chances of our data being misused against us are going to be less. It means getting off social networks, deleting WhatsApp and using firewalls (NetGuard Pro) is going to help individual users. Avoid using applications unnecessarily because it’s not know how they are leaking information. And use secured chat tools like Threema/BBM Protected which encrypts it’s database in order to prevent other apps from accessing the information.
Stay safe. Use BlackBerry.