In the modern age, devices and online services have become the new face of identity theft. The stereotypical masked hacker has been replaced by handy technology.
The only difference: no information is being stolen illegally.
“When you read the fine print, it absolutely says it will use your data and give it to other companies for surveys and other business,” said Sr. Damien Linscott.
Companies such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon have all gained a reputation in recent years for being innovative in their ventures into smart living and advertising. In fact, most companies of the sort have started to harvest data from customers for the purpose of capital gain.
“They can target ads, which isn’t always a bad thing because if I was interested in something I would want to know about it through advertisements or the content I watch,” said Linscott.
However, in some instances, companies cross the line into uncomfortable territory. For example, most consumers would agree that selling information to political organizations or filing for the right record them constantly, is overstepping a company’s bounds.
“I think the amount of technology that’s progressed is impressive, but it’s gotten to the point where the amount of information they have on you is creepy,” said Jr. Riley Mata.
Currently, Facebook is under fire for exposing data to a political consulting firm working with the 2016 Trump campaign called Cambridge Analytica. This left over 80 million Americans’ personal information compromised to an external organization.
“I think for being such big and successful companies, they’re abusing the power they have over Americans,” said Mata.
In addition, Consumer Watchdog recently exposed the fact that home assistants such as Alexa or Google have filed patents in order to record your home activity around the clock. This would mean Alexa would have data regarding your daily habits and conversations among other things.
“I know that having access to information at your fingertips is really awesome, but it’s also extremely distracting. I think it goes back to the ‘Big Brother’ concept which has terrifyingly enough, kind of come true,” said science teacher Sarah Nashleanas.
Despite disagreeing with their handling of private information, many consumers return to use the service repeatedly. This may be partly due to the fact that this technology has become ingrained into our way of life, making it difficult to become less dependant on it.
“It’s an addiction. It’s this instant gratification for information that from a scientific perspective, makes dopamine levels rise, so they have us on a chemical level,” said Nashleanas.
Younger generations, it seems, are especially susceptible to a breach in their privacy. Too often do they excuse privacy agreements and terms of service, and in turn, put themselves in harms way.
“We have to be taught these social norms about how to deal with social media, and it’s not being explicitly taught. That might be the responsibility of parents, teachers, community members or maybe a combination of all of them, but there are no rules to follow,” said Nashleanas.
With that said, the future of the public’s privacy remains unknown. Many factors contribute to deciding how private information will be handled, but it will ultimately be the consumer’s responsibility to protect themselves in the digital age.
“In the future, the laws may be more clear because people are getting fed up, which means either the ads are more specifically targeted or more heavily warranted,” said Linscott.
After all, research shows that only 22% of Americans fully believe that large corporations handle their data in a trustworthy manner, meaning it is only a matter of time before the companies are forced to stop avoiding confrontation.