Technology is a vital part of our everyday lives and has been evolving exponentially for the past few decades. Just as the evolution of technology has called for advances in science and IT, it has demanded an increase in protection of our data. With the amount of data that we carry now in our pockets, one would think that privacy security would be in the forefront of our minds, but it is actually the opposite. Many things have changed, mostly due to the development of the smartphones, but so has the culture around the smartphone and the people who use them.
In 1984, the same year Steve Jobs launched the ﬁrst version of Macintosh, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was signed into law, protecting computer users from unauthorised use, such as hacking. Just two years later, another act was brought into the amendment, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which protected the contents of electronic communications from being read or disclosed. Both of these acts were and still are fundamental, but considering the advancement of the smartphone and tablet, starting with the iPhone in 2007, they are far too outdated. There have been many changes since 2007.
First and foremost, the advent of smartphones has changed the simple vocabulary used in these acts. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act speciﬁcally says “a computer”, but could we consider a smartphone as such? There is much debate on either side of the question, but all we need to know is that a smartphone may or may not fall under that category, and therefore there is a risk that information found on a cellphone without a warrant could be used in a court of law. There has also been a great expansion of the term “electronic communication”, as seen in the Electronics Communications Privacy Act. Could an SMS be considered “electronic”? What about an iMessage? Or WhatsApp? These are just a couple of examples of how vague these outdated laws are, that they are unable to deﬁne the term clearly enough to differentiate the items which are protected and which are not.
Of course, in the 80s and 90s, we handled our information differently. Our computers were base stations, capable of holding our pictures, ﬁnancial documents, business information, and more. We waited until we arrived home to interact with our content, saving and editing the pictures and important documents. With the advent of the iPhone in 2007, and “cloud systems” a few years later, we have everything right at our ﬁngertips. Some people have more information on their phones than they do on their home computers because their cloud system has all their data. Smartphones have more capabilities than a computer did in the 90s as well – location services, HD camera, and phone numbers are all very sensitive information, and yet we are so comfortable with having those in our pockets.
If having some of our most sensitive information in the palm of our hand wasn’t enough to create a small amount of anxiety, here’s some information: More than 62% of smartphone users do not set up a passcode lock for their phones. This leaves all of their personal information ready and available to the next person who picks up their phone. This is particularly dangerous, especially with features like Autoﬁll, because they could simply tap to log into any website that has saved your password. Apps have also threatened consumer’s privacy with their advertising. Advertisers are receiving personal data from App developers to ﬁnd their target audiences to sell to. Of course, the “Opt Out” feature on most smartphones is very handy in this case. But Cybercrime is still happening and very dangerous since this usually leads to stolen money, identity theft, stalking and harassment. While they usually “hack” into Wi-ﬁ networks and Bluetooth frequencies, they can still reach all the information on a smartphone just as easily as if it were in their hands.
Furthermore, they can track locations and execute processes on the phone without the consumer’s knowledge. The smartphone industry has radically changed both the phone and the computer industry. Of course, it has also lead to an advancement of what privacy is and has brought many people into discussions about it. However, with a larger portion of the mobile phone market being smartphones, there aren’t enough discussions about what is at risk, and how to keep it safe. You better keep an eye on this issue; know what you are sharing and what information you are putting up for others to access; or you may end up in a really unpleasant situation. Smartphones are a boon, the technology associated may be helpful and detrimental if not understood properly. In order to protect your privacy, you need to be alert at all times and take preventive measures to keep hackers at bay.