Our Privacy and Its Importance

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If someone was to point a camera straight into your living room, most people would be horrified, and rightly so. This is a clear breach of our personal space and privacy. Yet surprisingly this is Ok in the online world. I am unsure why we accept this double standard, other than, “This is how it is and it should be Ok”? It is not Ok. At the very least we should acknowledge the level of risk to our privacy. I will try to assess our risk, here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

If you join a network and use a device, free or paid, they can and will track all your information. At home if you use Bell, Rogers or another internet service provider (ISP), you go through their servers, they can and do track your internet movements and information. They have the ability to store everything you type and input. While some security on the PC side is useful, https is easily cracked if you have the password stream from the PC, and they do.

Go to the library or coffee shop, use their wifi network, and they will have the ability to track your information. If they do not, then their ISP certainly will. Disk space is so cheap now that ISPs can store everything.

Each computer network card has a unique ID called a MAC address. When you log into a network this MAC address is read and stored. The network then gives you an IP address, the unique identifier for their network that allows you to ask and receive information from the internet. No matter that you travel to numerous places and use different networks, there are very few large ISPs here in Canada. If a single group, such as the government, was to ask for and receive these logs, then they would have sufficient information to track your computer and what you do on the internet. I believe governments are doing this now. Certainly the NSA and CSIS have been caught doing this, thanks in part to Edward Snowden.

Smart phones are really smart. They have a GPS as well as a network card. Keep your wifi on and find whatever free network you can, and all these networks will be able to track you. Not only can they know where and when you joined their network, but if your GPS is on they can also track your exact location, thanks to the satellites in the sky. Talk on the phone and your conversation goes through a network in digital format. This is no different from being on your PC, just more personal.

Phones and computers can be hacked, this is not disputable. If you carry a phone around wit you all day, as most of us do, then the hacker can have access to not only your camera but also your microphone. As a society we have given them a convenient tool to breach our privacy, and we paid for it for them.

If this is not scary to you then it should be. In China, it is no news that all internet traffic goes through the “Great (fire)Wall of China”, and all traffic is tracked. At least they acknowledge their lack of privacy and act accordingly. We here in the Western world believe we have greater privacy than China but really, with a government secret service bent on finding out who we are, we really do not.

Not that we have much to hide, but at least acknowledge that you are being tracked and act accordingly. If you are on a networked device, be it a PC, phone or tablet, you and your computer are being tracked. Information about you is being stored and others can and probably do breach your privacy.

I really like using Google search, and as a new Google Plus user the service is really nice for meetings. Still, what is Google doing with this information? You really need to wonder if you use Google services exclusively, where is all this info about you going and what do they do with this information?

Governments in the free world should be protecting their citizens against breaches of privacy. In a perverse turn of event governments are using the “War on Terror” as an excuse to track us and turn against us. This is supposedly for our own good. While we have laws on privacy, who will protect us if the government acts to breach our privacy? There is nowhere to run or hide.

Simply put, if you are on an electronic device and join a network, you and your information and and probably are tracked. As we live in an increasingly digital world, there is nowhere to hide. The only hope is for the people of the free world to elect a government that will not allow organizations such as CSIS to breach our privacy, all in the name of national security. The nation is not secure if we all give up our privacy to the government. We are like China, but without the acknowledgement that we are being tracked. Pity.

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