Privacy Versus Convenience In The Age of Alexa Siri And Cortana

Privacy versus Convenience

Privacy versus Convenience in the Age of Alexa, Siri, and Cortana is the see-saw on which we all sit.  As each day passes, more and more Americans (and others around the world) are willing to give up their privacy for the sake of convenience.

It started with the web browsers.  Remember ‘cookies’?  Yeah, well they’re still around.  Web browsers collect lots of information on your web-surfing and purchasing habits.  That information is bought and sold to others who target their ads based on your history. Privacy Versus Convenience

Then came the applications that we download and use.  Vendors through their ‘terms of use’ agreements (which nobody reads) starting collecting data for ‘feedback’ and ‘statistical purposes’ to ‘help make a better product.’  Again, more data collected, more money to be made.

Next came the very operating systems that we rely on to run these applications. OS designers realized that they were missing out on the marketplace, which they formerly dominated.  Why should all the third party developers reap all the rewards of user data? Privacy versus Convenience which one are you willing to give up?

Now in the age of the ‘Internet of Things,’ we have even more endpoints, which can be monitored.  Cell phones, tablets, household appliances and other ‘smart’ items like TVs and voice command devices like Alexa collect more consumer data than could be imagined.

What you buy, what you eat, your TV viewing habits, the music you listen to – all of that data is extremely valuable, and consumers are just giving it away for free.

So what can one do to protect their privacy?  Well for starters, one could limit the number of devices and the amount of time they spend on them.  Yeah, but gadgets are cool, and the manufacturers know this.  Mmmmm… shiny things.

One can also take steps to make themselves more anonymous on the web.  Create and use multiple online accounts for different things (e.g. business, personal, shopping, social media).  Use anonymous browsers like TOR (The Onion Router) or at least use ‘Private Mode’ on the browsers you do use.  Yes, I know… remembering all of those accounts and passwords and taking these extra steps sounds like a lot of work.  It’s not very convenient (remember the see-saw?).  Security is work.  If you want to be secure, you have to take steps to do so.  It doesn’t just happen.

To make things even more complicated, just this week, legislation was introduced in the House that would allow service providers (they provide the waves on which we surf) more access to your private data.  If passed, they would be able to get in on the buy and sell game.  Since they are the source in which your data flows, they are getting in on the ground floor with your data.  They see all before anyone else does.

Stay tuned and stay safe

About the Author:

John Castrege is the Security Systems Administrator for Campus Safety at Haverford & Bryn Mawr Colleges. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from York College of Pennsylvania and a Masters of Software Engineering from Penn State University.

Copyright 2017