Data Privacy In a Post-Pandemic World

data privacy post pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects still remain, even when we’ve begun to move on from the crisis. Due to the pandemic, most people have become much more dependent on the internet, mobile devices, and mobile apps. Many vital societal structures have shifted to online operations. With this shift, the need for mobile apps has increased drastically. Whether it’s in remote learning, online business transactions, or even in telemedicine being deployed as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the apps that we use can easily be used to farm data.

Cybercrime Spike

Since the onset of the pandemic, the number of cybercrime reports has increased significantly. The rising cases of the exploitation of personal data for commercial gain is only one problem that stems from the careless handling of personal data. This vulnerability is not just a threat to everyday people, it is also a matter of national security.

How Much Does Your Phone Know About You?

By now, most people ought to know that a lot of what they do on their phone can be seen by data monitors, app developers, and phone manufacturers. In fact, entire businesses have been built on the sale of customer information. Uber is a ride-hailing business, yet it does not own its own fleet of cars. AirBnB and Agoda provide accommodation, yet they do not own rental property. These companies thrive by providing a means to connect users with the service providers they need. In order to do this, customer data is needed.

Generally speaking, most app developers and phone manufacturers are allowed to only use customer data to personalize the ads that are pushed to customers. The danger comes when companies make shady changes to their privacy policy.

WhatsApp: The Turncoat

WhatsApp has long been regarded as the champion for secure and private messaging due to how the app developers prioritized data privacy above all else. While most articles will tell you that the new WhatsApp privacy policy changes shouldn’t present any significant changes to users, the scary thing about the policy change is that whatever is shared on WhatsApp can also be shared on Facebook and other Facebook-made apps such as Instagram. This means that your private messages can be shared with and stored by these apps, which poses a significant privacy risk, not from the company, but from cyber criminals who may eventually find and exploit a vulnerability in these platforms. 

Why Should This Matter?

The way that WhatsApp changed their privacy policy so suddenly could also mean that any other app can just as easily change the way that they handle user data. This is especially worrisome during an age when we depend so heavily on apps. Business, education, and even healthcare-related apps can be used to gather information on the vast majority of people. While we don’t claim that these apps can be used for nefarious purposes, the fact that we are sharing so much personal information on the internet should be a cause for concern.

Information is not only power, it is also profit. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with using apps. In fact, most people can live without these apps, but would rather not. May we stay vigilant and cautious with the data that we share, especially during times when it’s so easy to start an information-gathering campaign under the guise of the apps that we need.

Cover Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

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