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ICT4D Week 2018

Saturday, April 14, 2018

'We Live in age of Internet insecurity'

Ever wondered how a laboratory rat feels when everybody is starring at him – how he eats, plays and excretes. As a human being, just imagine a camera everywhere you go, including when you are on the toilet and when you’re having sex. Picture using your electronic device, i.e. Laptop, phone and it automatically becomes a spying, listening and tracking device to know where you are at any time. This is the world we live in today.

The computer age that we live in today is far ahead of what was envisaged years ago. We have moved from a period in human history characterised by the shift from traditional industry that the industrial revolution brought, to an economy based on information technology. Computers that we use today tracks people who use devices; it collects data from websites, collects information on people who visit websites, and knows which apps they download. What’s scarier is, when you buy a new device, it would already have information on you, because of your inboxes and smartphone contacts – the business model of internet companies today puts the user as the product, they collect data and sell it.

Facebook tracks users from device to device, collects data on websites people visit and apps they use, gathers material on people's physical locations, collects phone call logs from Android smartphones, and pulls in some data about people who don't have Facebook accounts at all - this is the world we live in today. 

Let’s not blame all these on Facebook alone, all other internet platforms do the same. It’s just that an example has to be made of a company so that government regulations will set in. I’m not a fan of regulating the internet, but the fact that big information technology companies have so much data on everyone, including those that have not yet been connected to the internet, otherwise called “shadow profiles” – this makes me cringe.

It won’t be a surprise if the only reason why the internet is free is because the US National Security Agency (NSA) or some other governmental or non-governmental organization is using it as a major tool to collect telephone records of tens of millions of people around the world.

In 2013, there were revelations in both the Washington Post and The Guardian that the NSA tapped directly into the servers of nine internet firms: AOL, Youtube, Skype, Apple, PalTalk, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google, to track online communication in a surveillance programme known as Prism. However, nearly all of the companies involved denied knowledge of these acts without a court order or a search warrant.

Conversely, these internet companies exonerate themselves by saying that the users opted in just by accepting the ‘terms and conditions’ of using the services they provide. But I am sure that if the users have the option to accept or decline every item they click on the service providers’ websites, the story will be different today. Instead, your total web history will be aggregated and sold to the highest bidder.

Amongst part of the efforts to curb exploitation from these internet companies, some countries around the world limit the level of internet and digital media freedom; they create obstacles to access by blocking specific applications that have control over your mobile and internet access, limiting content, filtering, blocking websites and violating user rights. This, however, is not a sustainable solution. 

What should you do? Retire to your village and cut off from reality. Ha-ha, I am just kidding. Just turn off the chat option on your Android device, delete any app that might leak your information, block your computer screen’s camera and only turn it on when you need it. Do not reveal personal information inadvertently online, and restrict downloads from untrusted sources.


Otherwise, you hire a communications professional that will combine the latest techniques with deep industry expertise to keep you on track, based on your tailored unique needs.

*Contributed by Michael Joseph and could be reached via: michael@axcessimc.com

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