Looking Under the Hood of Privacy Statements

Privacy Statements

Do you remember how it felt the first time you bought a car? Do you recall the excitement of just looking? Do you remember when you first saw the one you just had to have? You loved the color. You loved the style. You loved the interior. And you especially loved the audio system!

If you are a parent, you probably don’t get that excited any more … about cars that is. The truth is that you almost certainly do feel that same way when you see something new from the field of technology, whether it is the latest in computers, mobile devices, or TVs. We can’t stand the idea of not having the latest-greatest-up-to-datest device or deal, even though it will be virtually obsolete before we get it home. Now do you remember the feeling? Of course you do. It’s just directed at different objects than it was before.

Now that you recall the feeling, do you also recall what your father said to you while you were in your original automobile ecstasy? I remember it as clear as if it were yesterday: “Don’t forget to look under the hood.” Not that I knew what I was looking at, but it sure did scare some salesmen. The practice also kept me from buying cars that I would have been a sucker for otherwise.

If you thought that this article was about internet security, you are right. I’m here to warn you to take heed to your father’s advice – “Don’t forget to look under the hood.”

With the proliferation of mobile devices, smartphones and smart TVs, and “the cloud,” our senses are being flooded with a plethora of things that we think we need because they provide more entertainment experiences, connectivity, and ability to do things like we have never been able to do before. But what do we know about how all this new technology is invading our privacy? Better look under the hood.

Asking a vendor about security, whether you are about to buy a product or a service, will always get you exactly the same thing that every waitress tells you when you ask if the restaurant makes a good hamburger: “It’s awesome!” Unfortunately, the waitress sometimes can’t tell hamburger from humbug. Did you really expect her to say, “Not so good?”

Visit any internet service site and you will see a statement that says that they would like to collect your user information in order to serve you better. You start to wonder if that could be a problem, but the site directs you to their privacy statement, and now you feel comfortable. That’s about as useful as the car salesman offering to throw in a set of floor mats. And, oh, by the way, if you are buying a product or service in person and you ask about the privacy and security of your personal information, what do you think they’re going to tell you? You are talking to a SALES person, not an internet security specialist!

Do you really believe that your information is safe in a cloud that you can’t even see? That is accessible by everyone else on the planet, including some rather nefarious individuals and the NSA? You may even think that GPS is pretty cool. I personally don’t want to have everyplace I go and everything I do, physical or cyber, tracked and saved for future information. Do you really want strangers to know your purchasing habits or viewing choices? Or your children’s? Think of the Security Policy statement as the hood. Lift it up. Examine what it really says, and think about what this latest-greatest thing has the potential to expose about your personal life and your family’s personal life, to anyone with a corrupt mind and a keyboard. Know what you are really getting into. The life and the identity you save may be your own. Or your family’s.

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