Cyber Safety: Think before you share…


( Article was originality published and written for @socialsamosa. )

Every time my daughter giggles, or learns a new dance step, I record it. The other day, she was reciting a lovely poem she learnt at playschool and, like any other mother, I felt the need to document it on my phone – to show it to her grandparents and our friends. For the sake of handy reference in the case of an emergency, I have even saved my pan card and Aadhar copy in my phone gallery. Locked away somewhere in the notepad are my bank details. Clearly, #CyberSafety is an important topic.

My smartphone journey started with a standard Blackberry in 2010 (oh, how I miss the qwerty keyboard and that tiny beautiful screen) and eventually came iPhone 4s. Today, my iPhone X has the smartest auto organising photo gallery. From a few hundred to over 14,000 photographs of family, travel and work are stored on my phone. Some of them go as far as 2010 in the timeline. What does it all mean?

When I download an application they ask multiple questions regarding permission an d access. I usually choose the easiest option to login via Facebook or Google. On being redirected, Facebook/Google seeks permission to access personal information, contacts, and publishing rights. Do we read before answering? No.

The other day as I was signing a bank loan form and asked whether anyone reads the document they are about to sign. The bank employee said, “Ma’am, these documents are written keeping in mind that no one will ever read them. If you ever do, you will never take a loan.” This stands true for all disclaimers, warnings and policy conditions we accept.

Let’s discuss different layers and meanings of privacy in the cyber world.

When we go to the mall to shop for clothes, the use of changing rooms is a right that can be categorised as physical privacy. Certain pieces of information about us, like the date of birth, blood type, Aadhaar card or passport number would be personal information privacy.

This brings us up the ladder to an evolved form of privacy — decisional level. Remember Cambridge Analytica? It is about gauging the general census of the population by using their personal choices, state of mind, preferences — all to influence a particular behaviour or outcome that benefits a purpose, individual, government or a brand. It is a form of a privacy breach because the basic human right of ‘free will’ is taken away without the knowledge of the individual. It’s a form of dispositional privacy.

Some may argue that it is inevitable to have digital imprints, in the world of social media, apps, wearable gadgets and the internet of things. The question here is as the owner of your information, do you have complete control and knowledge of where the information will be shared and how it will be used?

As consumers, we need to be informed and aware of the use of this information we are providing.

There are a few things that I follow in regards to cyber safety and would like to share.

Less is more

Keep only the absolutely necessary applications on your phone. The ones you don’t use, delete them. Regularly keep a check on how many apps, e-commerce and other gadgets you have allowed access via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Such audits help remove unwanted exposure.

Weekly house cleaning

Like other things, your mobile (and the digital world) is another home that needs regular cleaning and maintenance. Avoid giving access to your phonebook, gallery and location to any app that isn’t essential. For news applications, I prefer to keep my location and microphone access off.

Take control of your cyber safety

Being informed and aware is a smart choice. Read about the applications you are sharing your data with on tech blogs like Tech Crunch, Mashable, and Forbes. They have enough explanatory articles and videos about security features among other things. Don’t worry about encountering complex policy jargons.

Don’t jump the bandwagon

Just because five people shared pictures of how they will look at the age of 60 doesn’t mean you have to do it too. Before joining a popular trend, ask questions, know more about it and then make a conscious decision.

Be social, but responsibly.

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