What’s your dig­i­tal pri­vacy worth?

Giv­ing up on to­day’s free prod­ucts and ser­vices may not be prac­ti­cal for ev­ery­one, but APC’s ed­i­tor reck­ons you can still ne­go­ti­ate a bet­ter deal.

APC Australia - - News - DAN GARDINER ED­I­TOR-IN-CHIEF dan.gardiner@fu­turenet.com

The old adage that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” has per­haps never been more true than in our cur­rent age of ubiq­ui­tous ‘free’ dig­i­tal prod­ucts and ser­vices. As we’ve all been rudely made aware over the last few years, the price of ser­vices like Face­book and Google is, at the very least, some de­gree of your dig­i­tal pri­vacy.

The big tech com­pa­nies do al­low you to re­quest a copy of all the data that’s been col­lected on you and, if you’ve been us­ing a ser­vice for years, that can of­ten add up to gi­ga­bytes of in­for­ma­tion. And it’s not just your search habits and likes that are be­ing tracked, but also your move­ments in the real world. Google, for ex­am­ple, keeps a log of your lo­ca­tion when­ever you use its ser­vices (which, if you own an An­droid phone, is nearcon­stant) and, as was re­cently re­vealed, there’s cur­rently no way to opt out of that col­lec­tion — see page 58 for more de­tails on that.

It’s not just free ser­vices that are col­lect­ing data on your habits, ei­ther. Mi­crosoft has been crit­i­cised over the amount of ‘teleme­try’ data it gath­ers in Win­dows 10.

So should you be wor­ried? In a Western democ­racy, we thank­fully have some safe­guards on how this data can be used and steps con­tinue to be made to fur­ther clar­ify and, of­ten, fur­ther re­strict this — Europe’s re­cent Gen­eral Data Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tion is a good ex­am­ple, and Cal­i­for­nia’s re­cent pass­ing of the Con­sumer Pri­vacy Act shows that, even in the Sil­i­con Val­ley heart­land, strong pri­vacy pro­tec­tions are still some­thing peo­ple care about.

Most of th­ese big­ger ser­vices also do a good job of keep­ing your in­for­ma­tion se­cure from out­side hack­ers, although there have been in­stances of mis­use by in­di­vid­u­als in­side the com­pany.

The good news is that you’ve got op­tions when it comes to us­ing th­ese free ser­vices. You can switch to more pri­vacy-fo­cused ones (and we’ve out­lined our favourite al­ter­na­tives on page 48) or, at the very least you can get a bet­ter bar­gain by re­duc­ing the amount of in­for­ma­tion you’re di­vulging — which will at least re­duce the size and com­plex­ity of that de­tailed dossier that ev­ery com­pany keeps on you.

Per­son­ally, I’m largely happy do­ing the lat­ter — although there are in­stances where I’ve cho­sen to use more pri­vate op­tions, such as chat and web brows­ing.

What you’re will­ing to give up when it comes to pri­vacy is, of course, a very per­sonal ques­tion, but with this month’s su­per­guide we hope to re­duce some of the fog that sur­rounds the is­sue so you can make more in­formed de­ci­sions.

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