No information shared online is ever private

I confess that while I love IT and Tech in general, I’ve only ever seen it as a tool, and not something to share my private life with. I have a smartphone but only ever use to send sms, whatsapp messages, occasionally to find places with a navigator program, play a single mahjong game when I’m waiting at the dentist’s and to make the occasional call.

I have a pc which I use daily and have a basic facebook account, with which I share very little other than a few photos. I have a Linkedin account too, even if I’ve never quite worked out what the point of Linkedin is. I used Twitter too, but only when I post on behalf of Goodish Times, and I only use that because I know millions of people cannot survive without it and because I’ve been told I have to.

I simply cannot understand why people share their entire lives, including every passing thought, however fascinating or mundane, with websites they have zero control over. We have people posting ‘private’ sex photos online and then bleating that they’ve somehow been shared with the entire world and its granny, people shocked to discover that the ‘confidential data’ they willingly gave to websites (or gave them permission to access) has been sold and shared with every bank, government and spam bot in existence. Do people truly believe that the date they provide, usually voluntarily and often under the pretext of verifying ID for security’s sake, is not going to be sold or shared?

Are people that stupid?

We know, because they told us, that Google reads all emails coming and going from gmail. Do we really think they’re alone and that nobody else does it? We’ve recently had the Facebook data scandal in which it turns out that 80-odd million folks have had their personal data shared with at least one dodgy company. Today it seems others are under investigation.

myfitnesspal, 150 million accounts hacked
myfitnesspal, 150 million accounts hacked

Never mind immoral website owners sharing and selling your data, have people never heard of hackers? Just a week ago it was announced that personal data from 150 million users of the MyFitnessPal dieting app has been compromised in one of the biggest hacks in history. One of the biggest that had been admitted, we should say.

US sportswear brand Under Armour, which owns the MyFitnessPal dieting app, admitted that the stolen data included user names, email addresses and encoded passwords. Apparently, payment cards were not affected. However, all 150 million users have been told to change their passwords immediately, including those for other accounts where similar information was used on MyFitnessPal.

Of course, that’s very much a case of politely asking someone to close the barn door after the horses had bolted, been caught by rustlers and turned into lasagna filling somewhere in Eastern Europe, because while the company discovered the breach on 25th Marh, it actually happened in late February. So hackers had the data for a full month before anyone even knew about it, never mind before they started telling users.

No websites can be trusted with your data, no matter who they are
No websites can be trusted with your data, no matter who they are.

Of course, stealing the data of 150 million users pales into absolute insignificance when compared to the details of more than 3 BILLION yahoo accounts that were compromised in 2013.

Golden Rule

I was recently speaking to a friend who asked me how he could make certain material on his website private, hiding it from casual visitors and search engines. I told him the same as I’ll tell you; don’t write or upload anything to a website, no matter how big, safe and secure you think it might be, unless you are happy for it to be shared with everybody who uses the internet, because that’s what you’ll end up doing, if not tomorrow or next week then eventually.