People are really only starting to becoming aware about the high level of intrusion of privacy and personal information online. What we may have thought of, as an innocent Free App or Free Account, now appears to have been quite invasive, accessing and reading our Personal Information without our knowledge. The trouble is, most people only realise this, after the fact. Worse again is when we see a company like Google or Facebook, blaming us for the information breach. How are we to blame, well it’s because we gave our permission for it to happen. We failed to protect our own data.
Google has previously stated openly, that it’s Gmail users should not expect privacy. After all, Google admitted reading it’s users Emails as far back as 2014, during a lawsuit. Fortunately Google appeared to address this concern in June of 2017, when the company said targeted advertising would no longer be based on analyzing the contents users Gmails.
Is your Personal Information still insecure ?
Yes, every time you install an App or a Third Party App. On installation, we see Apps seek different permissions which we are told the App requires to provide the best user experience. However, permitting a Third Party App to have access to your device, you make the device exceptionally vulnerable to a privacy breach. So technically speaking, it is your own fault, you installed it, you should have read the Term and Conditions.
A recent Wall Street Journal report observed that acessing private data through Third Party Apps is “Common”. Some 8000 emails were read by Return Path, a New York marketing company who develop tools for email marketers. This is the same type of data mining that was used by Cambridge Analytica. You may remember, this did not make Facebook particularly popular with people afterwards.
Suzanne Frey the Director of Trust (Security, privacy, Compliance) for Google Cloud recommends “We strongly encourage you to review the permissions screen before granting access to any non-Google application.” “No one at Google reads your email except in very specific cases where you ask us to and give consent, or where we need to for security purposes, such as investigating a bug or abuse”.
As users, we are partially to blame, as very few read permissions before the installation of an App. It would be safe enough to suggest, children never read permissions before installing an App. As a parent have you ever paused for a moment to think about what permissions your child has already granted on your device while they were using it. What about their own device, how much data and information is that device leaking.
How to protect your Personal Information
If you choose to continue to use Gmail, you need to restrict all unnecessary permissions from Third Party Apps. It is best practice not to ever install a Third Party App. In the Gmail settings, you can perform a Security Check Up, a Privacy Checkup and review My Activity. Here you will see all of the Third Party Apps which are connected to your account. More importantly you will see what permissions you have granted to Apps. If the App is no longer being used or you believe it to be invasive, then simply remove it.
Review the information Google is gathering through the Settings. There are several heading here which will come as a surprise to you when you see how much of your activity is actually being recorded. We would recommend that you provide No Permissions to Google. The advice will appear on the screen, this information provides for a more personalised user experience. This is another way of saying we are monitoring everything you do.
It may also be time to consider using a more secure encrypted Email platform such as Protonmail or Malifence. These companies enable it’s users to maintain their entitlement Personal Privacy and do not share User Content with Third Parties. Each of us are entitled to our privacy, not to be categorized or profiled by companies for profit. It is important to remember, as adults we are only now becoming aware of how vulnerable our personal information is online. We also need to impart this knowledge to our children.