Review of Data Breach at Tech Companies

Idea ReviewBy Mukul Bhartiya / November-10


10th November 2020

I saw a news piece today on Linkedin that leading e-Grocer of India, BigBasket suffered a potential data breach and it could have compromised details of 20 Million users. The data included users’ full name, email IDs, passwords, contact number and every other bit of information and was put on sale for USD 40,000 on dark web. Now, every other bit of information could only mean the delivery address and amount of purchases made on BigBasket. Management of the company claimed that they don’t save the financial information on the website. If sales numbers are recorded, then potential target of fraud can easily be identified.

Few years back I was doing a course offered by Coursera, designed and delivered by NorthWestern University titled “Understanding media by understanding Google”. Among many reference study materials, statement by one gentleman in one of the video said something and it stayed with me since then. Responding on what is the difference between Apple and Google, he said, “Apple sells you a product and Google sells you as a product”. I can’t comment about Apple because I haven’t used any product of Apple so far, but I can definitely vouch for the statement made about Google. Every application installed in mobile wants access to phone state information, read and write access to message and many things more. As I tried to change the keypad of one of my mobile, I was prompted by information that by agreeing to activate it, I will be giving access to all the information I will be punching on it, including PINs and passwords. So, I immediately withdrew from the activity. Some seven-eight years back, I was using an app called Foursquare, which used to give points on every check in. Funnily enough, despite the fact that these points were not redeemable in money, getting points used to give me a high. One day I checked the statistics and charts of my check-ins and found that it has complete and accurate record of my movements. It gave chill in my spine that if this data reaches someone either by design or deceit, I and many people who are using this app like me are completely exposed naked of our travel, shopping and eating behavior. I immediately removed the app from my mobile. Not only that, I stopped checking-in on Facebook and giving random reviews on Google of the every visit I made. I simply don’t want to be available for everyone on the internet. I am not saying that my details can’t be accessed, but as far as possible, I will try to retain control of my information to myself.

In this digital and 5G age, every other tech company wants to know about us, they want to analyze our behavior, they want to control our behaviour for either corporate or political bosses or both. Facebook had started many information gathering campaigns either by itself or partner apps by allowing them to use its platform. Couple of them are “Ten Year Challenge” and “How will look on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Tinder”. By getting the photos of users of ten years’ gap, coders at Facebook can find it easy to predict how the person is aging and how his/her face is changing with the progress in age. This is helping them to sharpen their facial recognition skills. With four different photos, Facebook is getting the access to any change dress can have on the appearance of an individual. By participating in these campaigns in the name of having fun, users are actually being made fun by Facebook or any other app.

The moment we log in to some app or website, we give them entry to our private life, which is accessible to whole world and we can’t deny that. But we, as a user should be cautious of using the apps or sharing our information which could otherwise be used for some other purpose than making our user experience better. Tech companies also must be brought under strict rules about collecting the type of information about its users.

Imagine “Weather” app asking permission to manage your calls and read and write message. I was recently integrating my Microsoft account with Google and Microsoft was asking me the right to write or delete all the messages of Google. Whether Microsoft does that or not is a different question, but I don’t understand what purpose it will serve for Microsoft other than controlling all my online behavior. Tech companies must be forced not to collect information which has no connection whatsoever with the identity and nature of the product. Financial information may be the immediate fear, but manipulation of human behavior and controlling their actions are the biggest fear which needs to be fought forcefully as a society.

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