17 February 2016
Do any of us really have any privacy anymore in today’s online world? By laying our lives bare on social media, with many of us feeling the need to divulge personal information once revealed only to friends and family, what are the consequences of this free-flowing information culture? And it’s not just social media that identifies us, things like email, Word files and even downloaded movies are amongst the created data that leaves our digital fingerprints exposed as this information is moved along mobile networks or over the internet. So what happens if this mass of information gets into the wrong hands? With the Ashley Madison case being a recent high profile example of such an eventuality, it’s important that we’re all aware of what online secrets we’re divulging.
“Historically, privacy was almost implicit, because it was hard to find and gather information. But in the digital world, whether it's digital cameras or satellites or just what you click on, we need to have more explicit rules - not just for governments but for private companies.” Bill Gates
Whether it’s your choice of film on Netflix, or the location signals sent out by your mobile phone, modern data science enables this data to be used like a digital fingerprint to identity whoever created it. So the more data we create, the more easily we can be tracked down. For example, Facebook stores around 111 megabytes of photos and videos for each of its over 1 billion users, creating a staggering 100 petabytes of personal information.
One consequence of the increase in personal information is that data will become more informative, meaning that information can be predicted about a person’s future and advertising can be more targeted, through the use of GPS readings for example to predict where a person may be up to 80 weeks in the future, and therefore what services they may be in need of. So it seems that there really is nowhere to hide in the online world. If you want to be anonymous, this isn’t the place for you.
The importance of responsible computer recycling has never been so vital, if you want to keep your personal and organisational secrets to yourself. So if your company is one that is committed to the ethical recycling of its obsolete computers and technology products, make sure secure and environmentally friendly computer recycling that adheres to proper recycling regulations is part of your consideration, to ensure ultimate data security. It’s also important to be aware that companies are now legally obliged to safely dispose of potentially sensitive information in accordance with current security laws and the Data Protection Act of 1998. Be sure only to use a computer recycling company that operates in accordance with, and preferably exceeds all government guidelines such as the WEEE Directive and the Data Protection Act.