I was talking shower gifts with my mom and she relayed that my sister has zero interest in baby monitor systems that include video. When I asked why, my mother explained, “Because people can hack into them and talk to your baby.”
Of course, any electronic device can be hacked. But I’d never have thought of that. Which is why it was even more bizarre that not a day later “CSI: Cyber” premiered with an episode focused around a case involving babies kidnapped for the black market. And what did the evil brains behind the kidnappings use to find babies? You guessed it – Wi-Fi-enabled nanny-cams.
Privacy is no small topic in our tech-obsessed culture. Most Americans are at least somewhat privacy-conscious to begin with – and CSI’s latest franchise is likely to be a weekly reminder of why that’s smart – but nanny-cam hacking incidents are just one example of the various ways we have our guards down.
And we really can’t afford to be so careless.
Because technology is advancing (faster than privacy laws can catch up). And with the Internet of Things upon us, we need to know how we’re going to keep everyone safe from new devices and the vulnerabilities they bring.
Brands need to take action
A recent FTC report urges companies to follow a set of best practices as they develop new technologies that will become part of the IoT network, and that’s a start.
In the FTC’s press release in January, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez was quoted as saying, “The only way for the Internet of Things to reach its full potential for innovation is with the trust of American consumers.” And that is absolutely correct.
But so far Americans, though they often state their privacy concerns, don’t seem to be worried. Or maybe it’s just that they’re not worried enough.
“We take your privacy seriously,” we read in many a loyalty program or credit card application. Sounds wonderful, but it usually prefaces a lengthy statement that requires a law degree to understand. How many people actually take the time to read through that information? Not the majority.
Conversely, we download an app and are told that the app needs permission to all but burp our child (to continue the baby theme) in order for us to use it, and we click away barely noticing what we’re saying “OK” to.
It’s hard to know where to stand. There are the blind clickers who have faith in everyone, and don’t worry about what they might be signing off on, more concerned that they get to use whatever app is all the rage. And there are those who steadfastly refuse to participate, with a just-this-side of conspiracy theorist paranoia.
The middle ground should be a place where we can choose what we feel okay with (maybe you DON’T need to access my camera, App-of-the-day, and you could still work), and know that we can trust those choices because the companies we’re putting our faith in have our backs for real – instead of finding out after months of using their credit card that their customer database has been hacked and our information is now at risk.
Consumers must accept responsibility too
Of course, that means that when things happen, we respond with consequences to teach the companies that fail us a lesson – something that doesn’t always happen now.
While it was nice to see a bit of outrage about Facebook’s Messenger app, what most people didn’t realize was that they’d already given over exactly the same amount of control over their data and device to Facebook itself, and to any other app they were already using.
Who knows why Messenger became the goat for privacy concerns at that moment, but it was a sign that people were at least paying attention, and standing their ground. I have friends who still haven’t downloaded the app. Unfortunately, all those closed barn doors do nothing to contain the horses already running freely.
In the case of the nude photos leak of August 2014, it’s still not clear that iCloud was the problem. Even if it was, speaking to Forbes, Chris Boyd, Malware Intelligence Analyst at Malwarebytes pointed out,
“‘This is an intriguing twist on the usual personal data breach story,’ he explained. ‘Whereas typically value is created by packaging up vast numbers of unknown people’s information, in this case the individual responsible has allegedly targeted a small set of extremely valuable targets.’”
In other words, the odds seem pretty slim that anyone is going after the rest of us, and our family vacation photos and voluminous selfies. Even so, there were plenty in the wake of Celebgate who wanted to remove their information from iCloud. For the rest, using two-step authentication was recommended by Apple. But how many are using it?
After Home Depot’s data breach, business continued as usual, with affected customers enjoying free credit monitoring service as a consolation prize for stolen email addresses and credit card information. The clear message here? Police your own data. But let us know if that monitoring service alerts you to anything suspicious.
It really does come down to that, and it seems not many of us recognize the reality: the technology, the companies, the devices that we put our trust in are not responsible for us. We have to be the ones who make use of the tools available to us, coupled with common sense about what to share and not share, and how to keep technology from being used against us.
As for my sister, I’m buying her a nice diaper bag.
What’s your line in the sand with personal security? Do you use Messenger? iCloud? I’d love to know why you do – or don’t.
IMAGE CREDIT: YURI SAMOILOV
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New Orleans, LA