Vox Pop: Will our data ever be secure?

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The FBI announced at the start of the week that it has independently broken down the barriers of Apple’s security software in pursuit of data held in San Bernardino killer, Syed Farook's iPhone. It has further offered unlocking services to the police, as Apple denied help to uphold customers' right to privacy. Apple’s refusal to co-operate and demean the security of their customers’ data was applauded by the UN and many other leading human rights figures.

However, the FBI were able to get into the iPhone 5c themselves and have consequently offered to breach further privacy barriers in light of public safety. Apple are frantically trying to find the leak in the system. A company we thought our data is so secure with, is now in the privacy argument’s spotlight. It begs the question; is any of our data really safe nowadays? Drum Network members discuss.

Marta Kusnierz, digital manager, Kolab

Do you really believe privacy online exists? I think it’s all an illusion and we are all accepting it on various level of consciousness. Some are in denial, some try to fight it, while others simply don’t care that much. In my mind this is an inevitable part of the world we live in. You don’t have to read a book or watch a movie to suspect that large corporations, security and government agencies have controlled the flow of information. Technology has just made it easier for them.

If you really want to test it for yourself go to a social media page and write an offensive joke or post about your boss - see how fast it comes back to you in form of dismissal paper in your inbox…

Nick Adams, strategist, Yoyo Design

I read somewhere once that the biggest lie told on the internet is “I have read and understood the terms and conditions”. Presumably on hundreds of occasions each year we all opt-in to sharing our data with whichever “partners or third parties” are deemed relevant. We started the trend for broadcasting our information before we even had broadband without thinking about the security of our data.

How many times have you seen ads in your Gmail account that seem just a little bit coincidental or logged into Facebook to see an ad for the sports shoes you were just browsing – these are all clever tactics to help us buy more stuff but ultimately it’s our data that’s driving this level of personalisation. And by the way, personalisation is something that people have asked for (Nike, Spotify, Heinz, Coke, etc, etc, etc…).

Stories such as this open our eyes to security, and what it really means. We expect a level of guaranteed online security to safeguard our information and private lives, but on the flip side the ‘Feds are focusing on matters of national / international security. They sought permission for access, were denied it and did it anyway - they probably could have done it all along. We, the people, are helpless.

The point is, unless it suits the vendor then the rules are malleable – one could argue the greatest “hack" of the 21st century was Apple loading U2’s 'Songs of Innocence' album onto half a billion iTunes accounts without asking permission. P.S. ironic album name alert.

Laura Varley, brand journalist, Vertical Leap

Our data has, and never will be, 100 per cent safe. Unfortunately, hackers and criminals will always find a way to get around security systems. All we can really hope to do is stay one step ahead of them, and make sure these systems are constantly monitored for breaches so that, when they do happen, the minimum amount of damage is made.

That being said, it is still true that the vast majority of security breaches are caused by our own stupidity/naivety. We create passwords that are unsecure and then use the same ones for all of our hundreds of online accounts and logins. We share our passwords with others. We write them down. We proudly display so much personal information on social media. We make it far too easy for criminals to break in and gain access to our data.

We are only human, and so much of the above is nigh on impossible to avoid. No matter how secure security system become, we will always be lumbered with human error.

Stacey Fordham, head of social, s3 Advertising

As a social media manager I am constantly aware that once I have put something into the world, even if I remove it – someone, somewhere will still have access to it.

I have the same Big Brother feeling toward my iPhone – which is probably why my Camera Roll is perfectly filtered, my contacts don’t contain vital information and I don’t store the Social Media Login details for my clients in my notepad.

Your iPhone is somewhat like your best friend – it’s happy to store your secrets yet if tempted by the Mean Girls, which in this case are the FBI. All will be revealed within seconds. Don’t store what you wouldn’t share on a platform that isn’t tangible!

Eli Zheleva, SEO specialist, Vertical Leap

Is our data safe nowadays? Not really. We’re living in a world of information overload and we’re trying to make our lives easier. We use the same credentials for multiple sites. We sync our devices and allow different apps to access our personal information. This way we don’t do ourselves any favours, as if one of the sites we’ve authorised gets hacked, many other accounts we have will be vulnerable.

In addition to that, some browsers still have this “fault” where if someone uses the inspect element functionality, they can reveal hidden passwords. Google also keeps a lot of information on our location and personal preferences (data gathered through browsing history).

On a separate note, last week in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, there were terror fears following a Facebook message from an Afghan user. The message was somehow detected by the US government and the latter warned all US citizens residing in Bulgaria of the potential threat. This is yet another example showing that there is some sort of monitoring going on.

We need to be mindful of what data we provide online and who we can trust or not. It’s our responsibility to keep our accounts regularly updated, change passwords and regularly review what sites/apps we’ve given our details to.

Kulvin Kailey, data planner, Hugo & Cat

Data privacy is one thing, but data security is another. How your data is used should be the consumer's decision to advocate, but how your data is protected should be the responsibility of whichever brand you decide to place your trust in. Will people look at Apple as a company that will do all to protect their data? Perhaps. In today's environment, that should really count for something. Customers want to be valued, not exploited. I'd stand by any company that treats my security with utmost importance.

Sure, the FBI gained access to the device, but that doesn't mean we all suddenly switch sides and point the finger at Apple. We are talking about a highly-sophisticated government agency relentlessly pouring resource into hacking the phone for a considerable period of time. It may not be perfect, but it does a really good job of keeping people out.

See, the issue here is that you now have a large corporation that doesn't need to answer to the government (without trial) and a government organisation that will do whatever they want to. Neither has dominion over the other, but which one has more concern over your privacy? Not the FBI.

Large scale hacks of account information, like we've seen from Ashley Madison, SONY etc are the ones we should be worried about. These affect not only consumers but also the long-term reputation of those brands. If a company lost my data to hackers, I'd go somewhere else where I knew my information was better protected. Security is more of a selling point than it's ever been before. Better more, it's a necessity.

Naomi Taylor

Naomi Taylor is membership manager at The Drum Network, covering members' news, insights and publications.

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