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The Privacy Debate: Anonymity Or No?

Echosec Systems June 26, 2015 Privacy & Compliance, OSINT & Tools

This week brought new privacy concerns for Uber customers according to this TIME article. The revised policy that will take effect July 15th states that the company can now track users’ behavior; even gather contacts details when the app is closed on their mobile device. The privacy rights group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on Monday June 22nd stating that it is concerned about Uber’s privacy rules in that the changes made to the existing terms will allow the app to collect more detailed data about customer’s whereabouts and use their contact lists to send promotional pitches.This isn’t the first time EPIC has filed a complaint against a tech company that utilizes customer information without consent. In past events, Google, Facebook, and What’s App have all been accused of unlawfully using data collected from its users and selling it to data brokers. Since there is an ever-changing landscape of tech companies creating productivity apps, it seems like an obvious growing pain that privacy laws will continue to be tested.

Tossing the coin

Many believe there is an argument to be made on both sides of the privacy debate. The majority of the top downloaded apps depend on using our location services to execute on their intended use and in turn deliver a product that makes our lives easier, case in point, Uber. It’s where our additional private information (i.e. contact lists) are unknowingly used and sold to data mining companies and advertising agencies that the debate becomes heavily one-sided for some people. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases the tech companies have already disclosed this solicited use of information in their privacy policies and we have already agreed to it!  I know I especially have been complacent in this regard. Most of us just assume that the tech companies have a strict set of policy guidelines that protect the end user; however this is a large source of additional revenue for the website/apps developers.

To be or not to be anonymous…  

If you are someone who likes to keep a relatively low social profile, managing your privacy settings on your selected social media accounts and apps can help to eliminate your contributions to marketers. Things like simply turning off your location services when your not needing it to pull information for an app, can help to create a more anonymous day-to-day existence.  But while many of these websites and apps invoke a bit of mild privacy paranoia for some, the majority of the younger connected world appear to care a lot less. In a study by USC Annenburg, Millennial’s (birth years from early 1980’s to early 2000’s) are more enthusiastic about sharing their personal information with online businesses, have greater receptivity to targeted advertising when their personal information is involved, more willingness to trade personal information in exchange for relevant advertising and a greater likelihood that they allow access to their personal data or information on their web behavior – as long as they receive concrete benefits in return.

...turning off your location services when your not needing it to pull information for an app, can help to create a more anonymous day-to-day existence [Tweet this]

I used a tool from one of our investments, Echosec, to search what people put out publicly. I used Echosec’s location based search engine over a popular burger chain in California, specifically In-N-Out Burger in Culver City and much to a marketer’s dream I found an entire page of public posts via Instagram, foursquare & Twitter of millennial’s enjoying In-N-Out branded burgers & fries.

 

In-N-Out Burgers on Echosec

The verdict is still out

While social media and productivity apps continue to climb the technology charts and the world is still learning what the negative implications of over-sharing could be, it's fair to say that we’ll continue to exist in a connected, highly transparent digital world. The onus is on the individual to choose to live in anonymity or not…

 

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