As the world becomes more conditioned to live with less privacy, in a recent move to collect user data Bell has raised security eyebrows
Bell, Canada’s largest telecommunications company, is taking a page from Facebook and Google’s playbooks, and is planning on collecting large amounts of their users’ data. It’s a plan that plenty are weary of, and rightly so
Bell plans on looking into your searching and browsing habits
The company is doing it under the veil of “convenience for the customer,” a trope that as consumers, we have heard time and time again. It’s a trope that begins to sound like a code word for “a step towards less privacy.”
Bell has decided that it will now be paying attention to searches and browsing habits to ensure that advertisements are more “tailored” to the user.
Thankfully the wool cannot be pulled over Canadians’ eyes since Canadian law requires user consent before Bell can proceed with such invasive policies. However there is an ever-growing trend of complacency, and even willingness for some to live with less privacy.
Privacy is a thing of the past
It’s interesting to think about how the public’s attitude towards privacy has changed in such a short amount of time.
Within our devices, we have unique relationships with large organizations like Facebook, Google, and Twitter. It seems as though we’re living rent-free on these devices, using them as we like. But that is obviously not the case. There’s a price to pay for our privileges.
We’ve invited these companies into our homes with wide open arms. We can access them any time of day, any day of the year. These companies have information on our likes, dislikes, where we are, our interests, hobbies, where we go out for dinner, who our friends are, and what we look like. It’s no wonder that the boundaries for privacy are no longer clear.
Technology is intertwined with the human experience now in a way many did not see coming, and with that, privacy has taken a sidestep.
How many devices do we own with microphones on them now? Our phones, our tablets, and even some of our televisions are all listening to us.
Security flaws in our platforms and technologies
It seems almost too Orwellian to think that those we trust to protect us would be able to listen in on us. But we know from Wikileak’s Vault 7 releases that the CIA and the UK’s MI5 have developed systems that put our devices in a “fake off” mode that allows them to record while dormant.
Facebook, the social media giant of our time, has a not-so-perfect history of privacy issues. As recently as December of 2018, Facebook disclosed that another bug may have affected up to 6.8 million users that allowed app developers to see photos of users that had been uploaded, but never publicly posted.
Another late 2018 blunder that made international headlines and lead to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologizing for making “mistakes” was the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where Facebook users (up to 50 million of them) were targeted for political advertisements.
In a September security breach, hackers gained access to nearly half of the 30 million accounts who were affected in a September 2018 security breach.
Google is now in hot water for their mismanagement of the “Plus” social media network, as recent security flaws affected nearly 52 million users.
Google, a company that consumers allow into our homes through their Google Home devices, is a company that holds massive power and collects information in ways we don’t feel expect. We have essentially wiretapped ourselves for the sake of convenience.
These companies have track records for mismanaging information. Though it is not entirely surprising that Bell would want to follow in their footsteps, it’s frustrating, to say the least.
Sound the warning Bell
How are we supposed to trust Bell with our information? When given permission, Bell will collect info about its customers age, gender, billing addresses, which devices are accessing bell services, along with other info, such as the “number of messages sent and received to devices, voice minutes, user data consumption, and type of connectivity when downloading or streaming.”
One has to wonder what we as consumers gain from this. A more pleasing browsing experience? Hardly. Even if advertisements are tailored to my needs, it typically does not make them any less annoying.
“Bell’s marketing partners will not receive the personal information of program participants we just deliver the offers relevant to the program participants on their behalf,” our corporate overlords ensure us.
The tangible gain here for the consumer is essentially nil. What will giving away our information do for us? It’s not going to make our internet faster or our streaming qualities higher. It’s not going to give us extra data on our plans, or extra features that we have not had access to prior.
We now have to worry about Bell mishandling our information in the same way that mega corporations like Google and Facebook did. This is not intended to sound like any sort of insult, but how are we supposed to trust Bell if Facebook and Google can’t even keep their ducks in a row?
Once Bell takes these steps, Bell’s data security is now a target by hackers everywhere who will be itching to take a shot at Bell’s ability to keep information secure.
Bell spokesman Nathan Gibson states in an email that customers are not required to opt into its new marketing program, and they can opt out later by adjusting their instructions to the company. But for how long will that be the case?
At what point will users no longer have the choice, and at what point will Bell rather just expect that we as consumers are willing to give away our habits and information away?
It’s important to map out the way these types of scenarios can go. it may seem very dramatic to already hold Bell accountable for these sorts of problems, but it’s an inevitability to nearly no company has been able to escape. How will Bell ensure is that we are not at risk?
Us consumers need to know the risks, the benefits, and the harm that could be attached to Bell’s plan to go in this direction. The more transparency from their part, the more comfortable we, as their consumers, can feel.
What do you think? Is this a step in the wrong direction? Or is this a welcomed change in a world becoming less and less private?
Join the conversation by commenting below.