“I don’t have anything to hide,” say many social media users and online shoppers. But most of us do have something to hide — we just aren’t sure what it is.
You pass by hospitals and supermarkets. You may also pass a university where a research study is being done. Somebody knows this because of big data. Big data exists via the computers in our cars, GPS, smartphones, and electronic wallets.
At this point, this is harmless but there is more. That electronic wallet data and credit card records show what magazines we’re purchased, stores we’ve shopped in, and time of day we’re out and about. Big data also shows who is out and about with us.
The old-fashioned criminal “cased the joint” by parking outside your home for a bit to take note of your habits. Imagine how efficient criminals can now be by digitally casing the joint? But it gets even worse. What if you also are a gun collector or hunter? There’s a record of that too, and a record of how often you fire a weapon at a shooting range. Perhaps you also collect knives or military memorabilia.
All your activities are legal, and should be your private business. But what if there’s an incident at that hospital, supermarket, or university research lab? The incident involves animal rights, environmental matters, or abortion. These are among the issues identified as threats to Canadian security in the 1990s. What if you also drive by a Christian church or Jewish temple?
Fundamentalism in these two religions was identified as top threats by the American Central Intelligence Agency prior to 9/11.
Circumstantial evidence is now pointing to you. You appear to have motive via the magazine subscriptions, means because of your guns and knives, opportunity because you were there often, perhaps casing the joint, and you were there within minutes of the incident. This is what you had to hide and you didn’t even know it.
The even greater threat is that all of this data is being collected and stored for future use. It’s this data that caused Google to morph from a search engine to a diversified multinational. Google is now operating high speed Internet services, conducting anti-aging research, is an investment firm, working on self-driving cars, and in many other fields in which knowing demographics and behaviour is a competitive advantage.
Cybersecurity companies know how technology can be exploited. They’re recruiting specialists and expanding all over the world. Forbes estimates the global cybersecurity market will reach $170 billion by 2020.
The cybersecurity market is big because of the power someone will have by holding that data for ransom. If you lose data or someone steals it, some can be recreated. You can re-write a document, or try to find a paper copy of a photo. You can cancel credit cards and get new government identification.
But some data can’t be reproduced, and some gives instant access to your bank account and credit — before you can protect yourself. Some data, or modified data can get you fired, put in jail, or even killed.
Then there’s voice recognition. We already have criminals asking a question on a phone call getting you to say “yes.” This is used to prove you purchased something. Criminals can record a few sentences of your speech, and recreate your voice saying almost anything.
Imagine who might get a call from you giving instructions you don’t actually want followed.