Privacy: Digital, Personal, and Responsibility.

Privacy: Digital, Personal, and Responsibility.

Digital privacy is a hot topic this year. Criminals phones have been broken into for evidence. It sounds like having your devices encrypted means you have something to hide. Digital privacy is something that the general internet using public doesn’t take seriously enough, if considers at all.

I will warn you that the discussion over digital privacy has gotten me a little ranty lately. I let this sit for a couple days and re-read and edited it, then let it sit for a couple more days and read it and edited it. Then I let it sit that way since March. It doesn’t sound as much like me ranting for no reason about random stuff out of frustration.

A couple weeks back I found an article about Amazon removing the Encryption features from one of its Device OS’s.  Folks.. and I quote this article:

“When we released Fire OS 5, we removed some enterprise features that we found customers weren’t using,”

 

Thing is, one of the main “Enterprise Features” they are talking about here happens to be even the option of Encrypting your data within their device.

I’m sorry, but any company, ANY company, should not treat your digital privacy as an “Enterprise Feature.” Sure, turn it off by default but at least let the user decide to encrypt if they wish. Or better yet, turn it on by default, give the user the option to Remove the encryption on first boot.
 

Digital Privacy is a Choice?

Neo from the Matrix said “Choice, the Problem was Choice.” To be honest, I believe that the solution is choice. Choice and the realization of the responsibility for your own digital privacy. You better believe that if I cant get a piece of hardware or software that gives me the choice that I want, sorry… Deserve as a Human Being, that I will hack the crap out of one until I can. My phone, laptop, and desktop all have encrypted drives.. and its good to see more companies (Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, although I am still.. speculative about these companies. Dont get me wrong) moving in that direction.
 
If Digital Privacy isn’t a right, then at least make it a choice. “Not enough system resources” (as quoted from the article) is a sad excuse. Remove some of that advertising bloatware and give me the Choice to protect my digital information.
I look at this debate like my front door on my apartment. I have the choice to close it, I have the choice to lock it. Twice, if I choose. I can be a bum and play video games in my underwear and eating pizza all day if I choose. I can also choose to unlock and open my door during a nice summers eve.
 

A choice can sometimes be too much for some. Some people do not like the idea of having a choice. While blaming the companies who maintain the software on the devices if anything should go wrong. That the choice should be the same for everyone. Decided by the company providing the device. To an extent, I can sympathize. On the other hand though, personal digital privacy should be a personal decision. Akin to what kind of milk you keep in the fridge. Although in this case its not your cereal in jeopardy. Its your identity. This is where the personal responsibility comes in. I warn you, this will be difficult for some people.

Encryption Choice is not enough.

Encryption is not enough for digital privacy

What if I told you encryption is not enough?

We as consumers, don’t take enough responsibility for our Data. We have been very willy nilly about what we search for, what we upload, where we upload and for that matter why we upload it, and don’t forget the mother of all exploits, what we click. We are so focused on the cool things that our phones do, that we forget about the things we need to protect. As time goes on more devices are coming of age. For example, home automation is picking up in a fast way. Sadly, these devices are wireless and some even had full linux shells on them. Yes I am talking about that shiny thermostat that you bought that you can change the temperature from your phone.

Having all of these devices that can do amazing things is great. It truly is. I love the fact that I can talk “face to face” with my mom who lives 3 provinces away from anywhere as long as I have some kind of connection. The things we have glassed over are things like how is the information sent and received? What kinds of servers are in between? Is this service safe for me to use with limited risk of the wrong people having access to my information? Can the device that I have in my home with a CAMERA in it be accessed via a wireless network that isn’t part of my system?

I will even say that I am ok with my browsing stats being analyzed to gather information on browsing trends. “Whoa hold up. You just spent the last how long telling us that we should be careful, and get encrypted devices. Now your ok with Browser Tracking? What now?”

Here’s the thing. Most of that data we can’t do anything about, and for the most part its anonymous and are just numbers. So whatever. Using apps like adblocker and Ghostery help with as much of that stuff as I can. Again, most people don’t realize the extent of the information being tracked. If you are one of these people you are. Every click, every link, every download, and every page you view. Tracked. Either anonymously or attached to a sign in name, and usually saved to your computer via Cookies (clean them histories once in a while people!).

Phase two.  The turn around:

How to start thinking about digital privacy without getting paranoid and crazy?

Some common questions that many people forget to ask themselves when posting or uploading are:
  1. Is this photo/content Facebook appropriate?
  2. Do I want the whole world to be able to have access to this file?
  3. Where am I sharing it?
  4. Do I know even the general gist of the privacy statement for that service AND how that service may use this information/file?
  5. Is my information on this device “Safe”.

Safe was placed in quotes because no one can 100% guarantee that a device is safe. There is only a certain level of security that anyone can guarantee with the devices we have. The first step to getting most of the way there, is storage encryption. Phones, computers etc. The public is worried that they will loose the usability of some applications if the drive is encrypted. I like to look at encryption as a “shell” around a drive/files etc. Yes, it may run a little slower.

***** End rant*****

The point is that encryption is a good thing. And the ability to encrypt is better. The removal of the ability to encrypt is very sad. In my opinion, all devices should come with encryption capability.

For now, we will keep watching and waiting. The companies that have already enabled encryption have set a good example for others to follow. It is good to see more companies starting to add this to the devices and software. To me there is a need for more. The more the better.

In closing, watch where you post, why you post, and keep having fun with tech. The internet is awesome. It can be a very scary dark forest. Keep safe, and have fun.