Awareness on Tracking, Cyber Securitry & Government Surveillance

Tracking

Tracking provides results on when, where and for how long a person looks at a particular stimulus. Detecting the face and tracking the eyes allows getting valuable information to be captured and used in a wide range of applications. Location can be tracked using commercial trackers, but additional constraints and expensive hardware make these existing solutions unattractive and impossible to use on standard.

Cyber Security

Cybersecurity is the body of technologies, processes and practices designed to protect networks, computers, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access. In a computing context, security includes both cybersecurity and physical security.

One of the most problematic elements of cybersecurity is the quickly and constantly evolving nature of security risks. The traditional approach has been to focus most resources on the most crucial system components and protect against the biggest known threats, which necessitated leaving some less important system components undefended and some less dangerous risks not protected against. Such an approach is insufficient in the current environment.

Google and Government Surveillance

We all know that Google tracks the location, text messages, and call logs of its devices users. What we didn’t know until recently was that information went not only to Google, but also to a mysterious server in china. To make matters worse, the backdoor used for the practice comes through pre-installed monitoring software, meaning it’s not malware or a security breach – it’s part of the device! American authorities don’t know if the data is being collected for advertising purposes or for government surveillance. That’s not very comforting.

Facebook Algorithms

We learned that trending news on Facebook was controlled and edited by people – who were capable of discerning real news from fake news. It seems this particular team overreached a bit and also did some news manipulation – why is this a surprise? Forget privacy here – Facebook spies on its members and assigns political labels to them based on what they see them do. This led to an uproar when conservatives discovered that stories in line with their beliefs were being suppressed by liberal-leaning editors. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, this is first a remarkable privacy violation, and second, incredible censorship. We aren’t supposed to censor or filter real news on social media. Then Facebook fired their “fake news” filtering team to appease the conservatives. Of course humans still programmed the algorithms – so this was just a distracting nod to the right. What was the result? Facebook’s algorithms boosted and spread fake headlines and news stories, distorting reality and very likely changing the election outcome in the USA.

When the US government tried to force Apple open a backdoor so that it could pursue information in a suspect’s smartphone, Apple CEO Tim Cook became a privacy advocate and hero in fighting back. A lawsuit looked inevitable, until the government said it found a way on its own to achieve the same. Rather than end the debate, I think such an announcement is dynamite to the whole subject. If our government can bypass manufacturers in one instance, then what stops it from doing it over and over again? Devices are a convenience meant to keep us connected to people and our content. Turning them into evidence against ourselves or a confessional platform endangers the future of us and our technology.

Make digital technologies safer to use

Of all the actions that could address digital threats to civil society, just one was universally advocated by the experts we consulted: the digital technologies we all use should be made more secure. If these technologies are made safer, they argued, it will be much harder for malicious actors to monitor and disrupt legitimate activities by civil society groups. And as several experts pointed out, these security fixes should be ubiquitous and easy to use, or the default setting for all our technologies.

However, making digital technologies safer is a complex proposition. Each of the components of digital communications can be insecure, including the apps we use, the operating systems that run the apps, devices like smartphones and laptops, and the Internet service providers that connect individual devices to the rest of the Internet. Different experts emphasized important safety improvements at all of these points.

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