Personal Privacy - We don't know just how vulnerable we are

Author: Yana A. St. Clair, Esq.

When we first began talking about data protection and personal privacy, issues ago, our approach to the topic was fairly broad, and our primary intent was to give a general idea of what information is being collected, and how it is being protected. We then introduced the different sets of rules and regulations implemented in different parts of the world specifically dedicated to the protection of individual privacy. In preparation for this article as I reviewed the previous ones on the subject, I noticed that with each new issue our discussion on this topic seems to get sidetracked, and it's about to again! But this, dear readers, is due to no fault of our own. It's simply that data protection is such a hot topic today, and thus finally receiving the worldwide attention and urgency it deserves, resulting in constant developments and essentially breaking news which we must address. 
Indeed, this last year has been an exciting one for anyone interested in data privacy, and everyone should be interested, or more so, concerned! The recent implementation of the GDPR in the EU seems to have gotten the ball rolling in the sense that at the very least, it brought the issue to the forefront. By this I mean that it serves as a constant reminder the second we click on a link on our phone, tablet or laptop, and that little warning about privacy pops up that you have to click “agree” or “ok” to continue reading the content, that maybe we should proceed with caution because whatever we're about to embark on, legally requires our consent.  Now in the vast majority of cases these friendly reminders will do little more than the giant signs on cigarette packs which read “smoking KILLS,” but at least they're there.

But I digress… Not long after the EU's groundbreaking data protection regulation went into effect, California, home of many of the world's tech giants, followed suit and codified its own set of data privacy laws. Now the California regulations are not nearly as strict and stringent as the GDPR, and frankly require the consumer to do entire too much legwork to protect his rights, assuming he can even figure out what they are, but irregardless, while being deficient in themselves, they've done enough to set the stage, and get people talking.

Now in our last Issue I had almost resigned myself to accepting that people today don't truly care enough about their privacy and are willing to essentially plaster all their personal information on billboards for the whole world to see. But a most recent development got me thinking that maybe we're not all that ready and eager to share it all, were we in fact informed of just HOW much personal “stuff” is being taken from us, and often without our knowledge. What I'm of course referring to is the recent public revelation by certain tech giants including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, etc., that not only are our conversations recorded, but they are also transcribed and sent to third-party companies for review!

That's right folks, every time you ask Siri a question, turn to Google Assistant for help, or just call out to Alexa, whatever you say afterwards gets recorded, and can be sent for analysis, where living, breathing human beings physically listen to your voice and everything that you said.
Maybe to anyone with a background in Artificial Intelligence or employed in the field of “digital assistants” this may be totally obvious. But to the rest of us, the degree to which “something” or “somethings” so incredibly personal and private are being watched so closely, by “real” people, strangers nonetheless, might come as a bit of a shock, and leave us feeling rather uneasy and violated...

Now just stop and think about all that for a second. While somewhere in the privacy warning we are made aware of this, sort of, it doesn't really sink in to the extent that: for example, as you're talking to your doctor about a sensitive medical concern, and you tell her that you Googled the symptoms, your Android phone's “wake word” has been called, and now everything you say is being recorded. 

A whistleblower employed by Apple recently revealed that often just an upward movement of your arm triggers your Apple watch to record up to 30 seconds of conversation, and evidently on countless occasions this occurs while people are engaged in intimate acts. This nameless individual further revealed that it wouldn't be difficult to identify who is in the recording, and link the events which occurred to a person, with a name, address and family. Now in light of the high turnover at these third-party contractor firms, just think of the damage a disgruntled employee could do… Blackmail, anyone?? 
In closing, while it is unlikely that any of us will actually be harmed by any of this at the end of the day, I, for one, figured out real quick how to deactivate Siri on my phone before I even began writing this article…

Biography:

Yana is an American attorney licensed to practice in all State and Federal courts of California.  Yana holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science specializing in International Relations from UCLA, the Degree of Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School, and a Master of Business Administration Degree from Ashford University.  Since the beginning of her undergraduate studies, Yana has been involved in various aspects of the field of Electrical Engineering, where she employs her business and legal knowledge to consulting and advising businesses and individuals on relevant topics of concern. Yana also serves as Editor for PACWorld magazine, having been with the publication since its inception.  As an attorney, Yana specializes in criminal defense, where she devotes her talents and expertise to fighting for her clients' rights and freedom.

Power. Flexible. Easergy.
BeijingSifang June 2016