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Be mindful about your data

That bathroom selfie you took last night at 3 a.m.? Yeah, the government probably has a copy of that.

These days, everything is connected. Our phones, our computers, even our cars.

Your information isn’t as private as you think. We all need to be more mindful of our data; from what we share to what is being collected.

Apple has made it into the headlines in the last few weeks over an FBI court order asking them to create a backdoor into the iPhone’s security.

Their reasoning? They wanted to be able to break into the cell phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

But the tech giant fired back, saying that a backdoor into their security would endanger the information privacy of iPhone users.

And Apple is right.

Ian Clark/Flickr Creative Commons
Ian Clark/Flickr Creative Commons

As noble as the FBI’s intentions might be, this type of software, in Apple’s own words, is “too dangerous to create.”

In our ultra-connected world, it’s hard to imagine that sort of software not falling into the wrong hands.

But this situation, interesting though it may be, brings up an interesting point about privacy in general.

Thanks to the now infamous Edward Snowden, we’ve learned that the U.S. government not only has the capability to spy on its citizens, but that they have.

While the Fourth Amendment, which protects us against illegal search and seizure, was written long before the Internet, it seems common sense that its protection would also apply to our data in the modern world.

But George W. Bush and the Patriot Act allowed the NSA to, essentially, violate our Fourth Amendment rights in the name of national security.

Even if the FBI vowed never to use this backdoor program on its citizens, we can’t ever really be sure. It wouldn’t be the first time those in the intelligence communities did something illegal.

But as frightening as government intrusion might be, the real issue is how open and public our information actually is.

Although tech companies like Google and Facebook vow to never sell our personal information to advertisers, we should be wary of just how much information they’re gathering about us.

Both companies collect information beyond our name, gender and location to specifically target ads toward us.

Recent searches, liked pages, browsing habits. All of this information is collected — or at least monitored — according to Google’s and Facebook’s privacy policies. And the only reassurance we have that this information isn’t being used maliciously is their word.

And let’s not forget how criminals would be able to use our information against us. Being members of social media sites makes us all a larger target for identity theft.=

Our digital shadow is a large one, and it’s only getting larger with every minute we spend on the Internet.

We all need to take ownership of our data. And even if we don’t become paranoid, it’s important to at least keep the fact that our information might not be entirely private in nature.

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