About a year ago, I chanced upon a book in one of the stores in Changi Airport that caught my attention. Little did I know that it would greatly influence me, as much as how the internet had also changed our lives.
According to Third Team Media, Filipinos spend the highest amount of time on social media at an average of 4.17 hours per day, followed by Brazil and Argentina. The country is ranked 6th overall, having the largest number of active Facebook users. This is brought about by the increasing availability of smartphones in the market and the many permutations of data subscription service that allow almost everyone to turn on their digital lives and thereby make their own digital diary for the entire world to see. Add the fact that the Philippines is one of the top 20 happiest countries in the world as recently released by the Happy Planet Index report – the elements are there to make the internet our new digital best friend forever. It now knows everything about us and at this point, will likely predict our next action given the patterns we unknowingly leave on our FB page.
It cannot be helped. Culturally speaking, we love to share everything that happens in our day to day lives; the internet, in fact, enables the ordinary to be extra ordinary, the mundane to be a little bit more exciting and truth be told, many of us seek that validation that is now increasingly becoming the basis to make us feel better.
But it comes with a price, and to many of us, we may not be exactly aware of what we are compromising on as and when we hit that “post” button and wait for the thousand and one likes that we hope will come our way.
It then helps to increase our awareness of the practical implications of technology, and to take a moment in understanding the flipside of such. You see, when we check in at the airport and inevitably tag the location of our holiday moments later, we are basically telling the world that ‘yes, I’m not home, feel free to ransack my house’ and criminals use this data, capture it and eventually sell it to sites like pleaserobme.com.
Companies riding on the wave of the Internet of Things manufacture home devices such as smart refrigerator, among other things, to take advantage of the very same market. But when Juan dela Cruz buys a smart refrigerator and stashes it with his favorite rib eye, roast chicken and pork, he’s basically telling the manufacturing company that ‘hey, I’m not exactly a big fan of vegetables.’
Guess what happens with that piece of data? Manufacturing company sells the very same information to an insurance company so that when Juan dela Cruz takes up the policy, well, you very much know how the premium will be skewed given the assessment that he is likely an unhealthy person. Other digital habits that can give away information about us unknowingly include connecting to just about any WiFi available and turning the bluetooth on all the time, or worse, succumbing to applications online available on social media that entices you to ‘check your look alike celebrity,’ or ‘know your Game of Thrones name.’ In the end, our privacy is compromised as individuals.
Now take this to the grander scheme of things: if we individuals can be so vulnerable without us knowing it, what more the enterprise systems and extending that, critical government systems?
This is why securing ourselves is so important and essential these days. But before we start doing so, it is imperative that we increase our awareness on the flipside of technology, particularly in cyber security. There are enterprise companies out there providing the necessary solutions to ensure that organizations remain protected and in the event of possible fraud, have the ability to detect it and mitigate the risks.
For us individuals, protonmail.com is a Swiss-based email subscription service that provides the necessary protection, at least better than what we regularly use. The servers are housed in a data center in Switzerland where privacy laws are so tight and heavily regulated. A good alternative to Google drive is Tresorit, which is also a Swiss-based subscription service for data storage. Finally, assessing our digital habits to minimize our risks would also be a good starting point.
And if you’re curious enough to know the book that triggered the light bulb moment, check out Marc Goodman’s Future of Crimes. You’re welcome.
Kay Calpo Lugtu is an executive of a multinational business process outsourcing company. She is likewise co-founder of Caucus, Inc. and deputy director of Global Chamber Manila. Her advocacies include data privacy, financial literacy, and nation-building. The author may be reached at email@example.com or, to the more cautious now, at firstname.lastname@example.org