The price of convenience

I’ve been concerned about online privacy for a couple of years now, but the article I just read still shocked me. It’s titled ‘Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, And They’re Not Keeping It Secret’.

You can read the entire article here:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/10/business/location-data-privacy-apps.html

I’ve had geo location turned off on my phone since I bought it, but until today, I always felt a little silly; was I being paranoid for no real reason?

You may be wondering that too, but the case study of Lisa Magrin, a 46-year-old math teacher, may change your mind. It certainly confirmed my fears.

An app on the device [smart phone] gathered her location information, which was then sold without her knowledge. It recorded her whereabouts as often as every two seconds, according to a database of more than a million phones in the New York area that was reviewed by The New York Times. While Ms. Magrinโ€™s identity was not disclosed in those records, The Times was able to easily connect her to that dot.

Lisa Magrin’s movements over a four month period

Lisa Magrin’s every single move was recorded…without her knowledge or consent. Then that information was sold. The Times article doesn’t mention who or what the information was sold to, but there’s a good chance it was sold to an ad network that collated her location data with her online data – Facebook comments, Instagram pictures, websites she visited, products she bought with her credit card, all those convenient little things we take for granted every day.

That’s a lot of information, and it’s meant to be anonymous, but what does anonymous actually mean? When your ‘anonymous’ data knows where you live and can track everything you do, the fact that it doesn’t automatically name you means nothing.

The ad networks that mine this data don’t need your name to target you for advertising. But that information is for sale, and there are no guarantees that the buyer will be a ‘harmless’ advertiser.

“Pffft! I have nothing to hide,” you say. “Besides, who’d want to buy my boring info anyway?”

Nothing to hide, huh? I wonder.

Does your wife know you visit that massage parlour for a quickie when you should be at squash?

Does your Mum know you spend hours on that porn site?

Do you use your birthday as the password for every online game you play?

Are you absolutely sure there’s nothing you wouldn’t want your co-workers to know about you?

As for who would want to buy that boring information, hackers would, and stalkers, or your abusive ex-husband perhaps. The list is endless, and the danger is real, not just for you, personally, but for those near you who may be targeted via information you unwittingly provide.

Stealing this kind of information will become illegal eventually, but until then you have to ask yourself – is that little bit of convenience really worth it? Or is your life too high a price to pay?

Meeks

p.s. My thanks to Chris the StoryReadingApe for this point:

Some of the things that can happen when your data is hacked can also apply to data that’s been sold to hackers, either directly or indirectly.

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

58 responses to “The price of convenience

  • daleleelife101.blog

    Great post. Awareness is the beginning. Followed by informed choice, behaviours and personal responsibility. I’m a consumer of technological convenience, but have made the effort to be so with an understanding of its implications, and xxx my own protections. Risk management is a given, habitual in everyday life, otherwise we would be static, doing nothing. We just need to do it online as well.

    Like

  • *Press it* The price of convenience #119 | Its good to be crazy Sometimes

    […] As technology gets more advanced this becomes more and more important, do you know who has your data? Thanks to Chris for passing this onvia The price of convenience […]

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  • wordlywoman2

    There is a loss of trust from the top down. Not even money can buy trust, it must be earned
    classic example= The Trump Administration.

    Like

    • acflory

      Yes. Politicians all over the Western world have forgotten that they are there to serve and that they do not have a ‘Divine Right to Rule’.
      Given all the revelations about the integrity, or lack thereof, of our governments, trust is in very short supply. I fear that the brazen bad behaviour of our politicians has put the very concept of democracy in doubt. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Liked by 1 person

  • D. Wallace Peach

    Ugh. Big Brother is alive and well. This is so unsettling and scary when you add all the other surveillance on top of it. If it was only used for legitimate reasons, it wouldn’t be so bad, but if people can find a way to use technology for evil, they will. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    Like

    • acflory

      Yes. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I used to think that most people were good, or at least neutral. These days I fear that a hell of a lot of them are actually borderline ‘bad’, only held back from unlawful acts by the fear of punishment. I very much fear that all the online bullying is evidence of that. Anonymous people feel free to be as mean spirited as they wish. Ditto for scammers, hackers and other digital nasties. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Liked by 1 person

  • Liz Gauffreau

    This is certainly sobering. I think we’ve become complacent about our lack of privacy and security in the online world. Big Data is watching.

    Like

  • Widdershins

    ‘…Stealing this kind of information will become illegal eventually…’ the ‘legality’ of it is probably buried in the endless ‘terms’and conditions’ contracts that very, very few people read … and I think it will become more and more accepted, unfortunately.

    Like

    • acflory

      At the moment, ALL the big tech companies, and that includes gaming companies, have terms & conditions that essentially say – ‘Accept what we want or don’t use/play with our product’. And it doesn’t matter whether you pay for their product or not.

      That’s their legal cover. But at some point, something truly nasty is going to happen, and lawmakers will start to ask – is that a fair ultimatum?

      Or perhaps a consumer will challenge that ultimatum in court. Either way, the time will come when these tech giants won’t be able to dictate what they want to consumers. I just hope I live long enough to see it. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  • Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Tuesday February 4th 2020 #Lifestyle Toni Pike, #Blogging Pete Springer, #Phonesafety ACFlory, #Language Sue Vincent | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

    […] Head over to read the rest of this post and perhaps review what apps you have on your phone and who might have a direct line to them: The Price of Convenience […]

    Like

  • OIKOSโ„ข-Publishing

    Great information! Thank you very much! You can hide yourself, establishing some avatars/ more fake identities. I myself using only tablets without WLAN. I only use GSM-connectivity, and prefered Russian proxy servers. Lol Best wishes, Michael

    Like

  • Candy Korman

    It’s all scary! So much is known about all of us and sometimes it’s impossible to hide. In order to prevent deception in pricing, New York real estate is now largely transparent. An agent can’t lie about what other comparable apartments sold for and banks KNOW values for loans. That’s good, but… now what I paid for my new apartment is on the internet with my name, the filings for permits with the city, too. Everyone knows my personal business and I get strange calls from contractors telling me that they can cut my costs if I choose them.

    One thing I’m avoiding are the Apps that help you find rebate offers or give you “cash back” on purchases if you go through them. It’s bad enough that Amazon knows what I like to read, I don’t need all my shopping habits sold to potential sellers (and scammers)…. Do any of us need that kind of monitoring?

    Like

    • acflory

      Ugh, I had no idea that kind of transparency was required of /consumers/. Then again, I shouldn’t be that surprised. Government institutions know a hell of a lot about us, and even if their security doesn’t leak, many actually sell databases of info. to anyone prepared to pay. I discovered that when I realised the only way a credit card company could have found my name and address was via the Bureau of Statistics. I rang the Bureau and they confirmed that ‘some’ data was sold to outside companies.

      I’m a bit of an anarchist at heart, but even I think that the net and mobile apps require some regulation. Plus there’s the issue of security. Does Google vet every app that appears on their Playstore? I doubt it. That means there’s the potential for malware to be delivered via the app.

      We’ve taken ‘Buyer beware’ much too far. :/

      Like

  • Mick Canning

    ‘Stealing this kind of information will become illegal eventually’ – I’d like to think so, but I doubt it. At best, we’ll be assured that the governments are ensuring there’s no abuse. Yes, I’m cynical. They want absolute control over us, and they’re prepared to break laws to do that.

    My only defence is not owning a smartphone with GPS capability, and not carrying that phone with me 90% of the time, anyway.

    Though I suppose it’s only a matter of time before I’m forced to…

    Like

    • acflory

      lol – I agree with you re the govt. I was shocked when I learned that Western govts actually monitor the undersea cable traffic that’s the conduit for our connected, digital world.

      In a sense though, we’ve always known that govt had power over us. What makes me seethe though, is the thought that we voluntarily allow snotty nosed little sociopaths, such as the owners of certain behemoth tech companies, to have the same power. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Like

  • Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

    Excellent post Meeks.. Everything on my phone is switched off including wi-fi except for updates and then switched off again. I don’t have any apps at all and just use for calls and texts. I will share in the blogger daily …x

    Like

  • CarolCooks2

    Scary…I don’t have GPS on neither do I sign into anything using FB or other apps…But I am sure if they want to track me somehow/someway will be used then they will find out how boring I am…Still scary though x

    Like

    • acflory

      I’m glad you’re cautious. I keep having this feeling that the proverbial is going to hit the fan one day. Would prefer not to be in the firing line when it does. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • CarolCooks2

        I think it will..I just don’t want to get super paranoid but fear many will to the detriment of their health. I don’t wish to be in the firing line either under the radar suits me fine if it means I am not inundated with crap now I know it goes in spam but it shouldn’t get that far I am having an ongoing battle with hotmail over the spam..Not winning I will add I just keep bugging them when I feel like a rant..haha

        Like

  • robbiesinspiration

    It is quite scary, this invasion of privacy we are experiencing, but you can take some preventative steps if you know about it. An interesting post.

    Like

    • acflory

      Hi Robbie. And yes, there are things we can do to at least reduce our exposure. I’ve stopped using Google and now use Duckduckgo as my search engine. It’s just as good but doesn’t spy on me. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  • Remembering Lives

    Apps or no apps the powers that be, have always known all about us.I love watching the ads that crop up and trying to work out what they think they know about me. We have very few, if any secrets. I know as a family historian, I can find out just about anything I want to anyway. Before Christmas I received a readdressed parcel from my ex. He had put my exact address on the parcel. I have just stopped caring. Facial recognition technology means they can follow us wherever we go anyway. Yes we are more observed than at any time in human history but the possibility was always pretty much there anyway. Personally I think other humans are the least of our worries. Technology is becoming cognizant, which is far more terrifying. My Dad used to build computers and always warned this day would come.

    Like

    • acflory

      I’m not that worried about AI, but I am worried about a world that’s fast becoming 1984. :/

      Like

      • Remembering Lives

        I love that book. I think that ship has already sailed. Every phone is an effective monitoring device. I saw an interesting talk from Ths National Press Club back in 2003. He put it succinctly,
        “You have no privacy. Get over it.” I am fascinated by A.I. My children disagree with me too but I do not think we realise the extent to which tecnology is becoming self aware. Electronics and computers have always been my thing. Dad was ian electronics engiineer. We used to talk about these things a lot.

        Like

        • acflory

          -grin- as a writer of sci-fi, I’m fascinated by AI too, but I can’t see it ever becoming self-aware, at least not in the sense that /we/ think of it.

          No one has any real idea how consciousness occurs, but in all animals that /are/ self aware, the biological processes are pretty much the same. Stimulus comes in through the sense organs, travels to the brain as an electrical impulse and gets to a synapse. This is where things get interesting. The synapse is like a lake with hundreds of roads leading to and from it. To cross the lake, the electrical impulse is translated into a chemical message. The strength of the impulse determines how strong that chemical message is. Once the impulse is ferried across the ‘lake’, where it goes and how strong it stays is again mediated by chemical intervention.

          My explanation is very simplistic, but it highlights the fact that in living things, thought and one assumes consciousness, requires both an electrical component and a chemical component. Think digital and analogue, or logic and emotion. Our thinking and motivation is always a combination of the two.

          A computer has only one component – the electrical. The electrical is based on zero and one. There is no zero-ish or almost-one. Something is, or it isn’t. It’s logical. I can’t imagine how huge a computer would have to be to simulate all the shades of meaning, and feeling, all living things take for granted.

          Ahem, sorry to bombard you with all that. My Dad was a mechanical engineer, and my passion is biology and genetics. It’s odd how things combine to make us who we are, isn’t it? Btw I love these kinds of conversations. Thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

          • Remembering Lives

            I love to hear other people,s perspective. My Dad used to go on about the zeros and ones too.

            Like

          • acflory

            lol – I’m only a baby geek, but I think the zeros and ones are called decision gates. Or something. Anyway, they don’t allow for any grey areas. ๐Ÿ˜€

            Like

          • Remembering Lives

            I have several posts about technology myself. Both my you gsters are studying computing. They do not agree with me but a few stories lately have been making them think. Do you remember the Borg on Star Trek?

            Like

          • acflory

            Okay, here’s where I really date myself. I watched the original Star Trek with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. LOVED IT!
            I think I’ve watched maybe one? of the new generation Star Trek movies so, I know the Borg is supposed to be part man part machine part AI, but that’s about all I know.
            Your point is well taken though. If the neural networks being developed today were somehow enhanced by wetware – i.e. biological sensors capable of transmitting sensations – then something like human awareness may result.
            Given how evil, and yes I am using that word deliberately, some humans are, I’m not that sure an ‘evil AI’ would be all that different. The big question lies in the power it wields. But again, the same applies to humans and human society.
            I think we keep trying to reinvent ourselves as angels and demons. AI is just the latest iteration. :/

            Liked by 1 person

          • Remembering Lives

            I think it may have already happened.

            Like

          • acflory

            Ugh, I hope not. We’re making a big enough mess of the world without any outside help. :/

            Like

  • wordlywoman2

    Everything you say is true, and much more. Anyone who is paid for advertisements on their blog, is buying into this whole network,

    Like

  • Matthew Wright

    This is quite scary on a couple of levels – I’ve seen reports about how easy it is to track people and identify them these days. I keep all geolocation services off, though Google still try to track phones via cell-towers. The worry, of course, is that this data will be misused by other parties, yet unknown. That old phrase ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ is a false syllogism because it presupposes that people who want privacy must be trying to hide wrong-doing. I am put in mind of witch trials in which the life of the accused depended, for instance, on their proving that they had not gone near a cow (thus, had not hexed it) – this in front of people who took the attitude that anything they said was a lie. The other scary part is that we appear to be living in the future imagined by Aldous Huxley, all those years ago. Ouch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      Yes, yes and sadly, yes. It’s the ‘parties, yet unknown’ that worries me the most. If information stays on the internet forever, and it’s capable of being misused by people with malicious intent, then sooner or later it will be.

      Liked by 2 people

  • Yvonne Hertzberger

    I’ve believed for a long time that if “they” really want my info they will get it. They are smarter than I am. So I’ve decided not to tie myself in knots over it. Though, in the case of stalkers, etc. that would be a different story.

    Like

    • acflory

      I understand your position, but what if it’s your actual identity that someone wants to steal? Not because they have anything against you, but simply because you have a low profile and that profile can help them do something to someone else.

      We’re all pawns in one way or another, but we don’t have to make it easy for ‘them’. Sadly, at the moment, that’s exactly what we’re doing. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Like

      • Yvonne Hertzberger

        It won’t make a difference. If they want it they’ll get it. But I never use GPS anyway. I prefer maps. lol

        Like

        • acflory

          Yes, you are right, if they have some reason to want /your/ specific information, they will find a way to get it. Luckily, most of us are just ‘numbers’ to the data miners which means they won’t go to any effort to chase us down if we slip below their radar. I’m glad you don’t use GPS, but so long as you don’t have it actually turned ‘off’, it’ll track you just the same as everyone else. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

          Like

  • DawnGillDesigns

    I only switch my gps on if I actually need it (to use a map, take a payment if at a show and very, very occasionally if I want to tag a photo.) I have insisted that #MrG does the same too, so now it’s muscle memory for him. ๐Ÿ™‚
    You and I can be smugly paranoid together ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

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