Want to know how the weather’s like today? Or look up a long-lost friend from your childhood? The internet has made pretty much everything possible right now. But there really is more going on than what really reaches the eye.
Once on the internet, your data is not private anymore. The hackers, the unsecured networks, the fears of endless data breaches, and intrusions always come along with growing applications of the internet. Alex Alben, chief privacy officer of the state of Washington, is paid to worry about the lawlessness of the internet. There will be no quick solutions, he acknowledged, but there should be reason for optimism.
He spoke at the symposium, held by the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at Northeastern University last year, about the concern of having no strict laws on the internet. “We’ve been here before,” said Alben. He recalls the scenario from a century ago related to Henry Ford. “Within a short order of time, hundreds of thousands of cars came on the roads. There were no laws then. You weren’t even required to have a brake on a car. You weren’t required to have a steering wheel. Cities didn’t have laws for whether you needed to drive on the left or the right.” The laws and regulations regarding automobiles were created eventually to bring order to the roads. But that response took much longer than a couple of years.
The problem could be similarly related to user data. People are just beginning to realise the wealth of private information that they are surrendering. Companies are exploiting your personal details because lawmakers have yet to tell them they can’t. There is no such privacy law that restricts the exploitation of this data, which has enabled companies to collect information on anyone who uses anything with an IP address, a numeric designation that identifies its location on the internet, including millions of cars that are outfitted with black boxes.
Speculation of new developing cyber technologies that promise to make efficient systems, smart grids, efficiently managed traffic is being offset by hackers who steal, sell, and ransom our most valuable information. “The public does not know how much data a car is actually reporting,” Alben said. “How do you opt-out of it? There’s no way to, basically.”
Technologies like the Internet of Things that allow billions of products to be connected online, such as smart refrigerators and self-driving cars, continue to grow with little regard for safety, making users more vulnerable and creating more access than ever. But It can also be put to good use, of course. For example, Uber, provides real-time traffic data to users and the government or in the most extreme scenario, in case of a terrorist attack or an evacuation, people can be extracted from remote corners and taken to safety using this technology.