Did anyone else find themselves hooked on Channel 4’s Hunted? Described as ‘A real-life thriller where 14 ordinary people go on the run from a team of expert hunters.’ it sounded like the perfect way to while away a Sunday afternoon. Little did I know that after a four hour bingeathon I’d make myself utterly neurotic and convinced I was being watched in my house. And while that’s probably rather dramatic it did make me think…
It’s since been revealed that some powers of the state have been recreated for the show, but of course the same rules don’t apply to real life. From ANPR and CCTV cameras, to smartphone tracking and our lives played out across multiple social media accounts, is anything really private anymore?
Just last month Edward Snowden claimed that GCHQ can turn mobile phones on and off. It’s perhaps reassuring to know these tools and hacks can be deployed when needed, but as an average consumer logging your calorie intake, or how many steps you’ve taken in a day, when is too much data sharing, really too much?
For example, would you tell Apple when you’ve had sex? This BBC headline caught my attention, detailing the latest feature of iOS9 – the ability for women to log their sexual activity alongside details of their menstrual cycles. ‘According to Apple, users decide which information will go into the Health app and which third-party apps can access the data.’ It’s of course not the first, there are many apps we happily download and enter our information, without paying any attention to the developer, the reviews, if it’s free it’s in the pack, and we’re not taking time to think about where the data we enter is actually going.
I’ve long been a fan of wearables, and the exciting advances in consumer technology that these drive. But it has it risks – and what if this ‘harmless’ tracking data finds its way into the wrong hands. This article from Techrepublic certainly made me think ‘If that data was carelessly stored, and then stolen through a data breach by a malicious third party and sold to unscrupulous organizations that want to use that data to assess your health risks, you could one day face steep increases in health insurance, or even a policy cancellation. The risk of this is so real that some companies are buying data breach insurance to protect themselves in the case of consumer information getting into the wrong hands.’
Would you know how to go about removing the data you’ve innocently passed on to apps, or tracking devices? Or even how to change the location and tracking settings on your phone? And where do those Snapchat and Whatsapp messages really end up? In a world where it’s perfectly normal to document every move we make, every meal we eat, the places we go and the people we’re with ‘Just because you agree to share your data with one company, or the government, doesn’t mean that that company will be in business next year, or new laws could be passed that change access to the data that you willingly gave up your privacy rights to share.’
Today, the Investigatory Powers Bill (aka the “snoopers’ charter”), will get its draft publication in Parliament. The BBC reports that the Government insists ‘measures in the bill will ensure any access to internet connection records will be strictly limited and targeted. Security chiefs and police say they’re not interested in your online shopping habits – only the habits of serious threats to society’. In an article published by Sky News, a Government source said: “We know these powers are needed as technology changes, and terrorists and criminals use ever more sophisticated ways to communicate. But we need to give people reassurance.”
It’s certainly food for thought, and one meal I’m not so sure I’ll be capturing to post on Instagram… Certainly not if the Hunters are watching.
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