The U.S. government, banks, airlines, insurance companies, retailers, credit card companies — who hasn’t reported a data breach yet?
The other day, my bank called to ask if I, by chance, was in Connecticut and was trying to use my business credit card at a Walgreens there. I was not, and a new card has been mailed to me.
But this incident made me wonder: To what purpose are the millions of personal data records that have been stolen being used? To go shopping at a Walgreens in Connecticut? Or is there a James Bond-worthy villain at work who, one day, will come out in the open and hold us all ransom?
Apart from the massive data breaches, we have also learned that many governments continue to absorb massive amounts of tracking data, or they are blocking and filtering what you and I can see and do. It appears that almost all data-owning companies are playing along with their respective governments in the interest of security or local law compliance — but really, to safeguard their ability to continue to be in business.
Most recently, thanks to Edward Snowden and the New York Times, we learned that AT&T has been the most cooperative in the U.S. — but that doesn’t mean other companies are any less willing to connect their respective government to their data arteries.
And then there are the digital companies themselves that lure or cajole you into giving them your all. Over the last two weeks, our household upgraded all desk and laptops to Windows 10. It was free!
But it also came with preselected settings that basically gave Microsoft access to more or less every keystroke on our computers. And when my son got his new Xbox for his birthday a few weeks ago, I learned from Microsoft’s own Family Safety settings that, even though they “know” he is a teenager, the default was set so he could be accessed by pretty much anyone and anything unless I changed it.
Books have been written and documentaries have been made about similar issues with all the
big names in the digital industry.
All of this makes a little digital ad fraud pale in comparison. So why are we so la-di-dah about all of this? Why isn’t there more outrage and protest?
Do we belief that companies have our best interests at heart? They clearly do not. Read any interview with any CEO — they ALWAYS say they exist to create shareholder value. Now you could argue that shareholder value includes you as well, through your 401K. But you are probably more concerned with the growth of your 401K than with attending Google’s next investor meeting in protest, right?
We’re equally naïve when we sign up for services. We all click “agree” on Terms and Conditions without giving it a second thought. We spend less time on the ToS pages than we do on banner ads — which we all know get zero attention.
Perhaps we need to acknowledge that things have gotten out of hand. Perhaps it is time for a concerned citizen’s movement. Here we go: #ourdigitallivesmatter!