Collision Conference, a three-day conference that brings together some of the best and brightest from all corners of the tech world, has finally begun! As you might have expected from us here at ProPrivacy, we've been paying close attention to the talks around digital privacy and freedoms in an ever-evolving tech landscape. Fortunately, there were plenty of opportunities for us to listen, learn, and scrawl notes intensely...
As the first day draws to a close, there was one key thing that stuck resolutely in our mind:
Make applications dumb again!
Stamos' statement was in regard to the relentless over-complication of tech by adding "smart" Wi-Fi capabilities to devices that simply don't need to be connected to the internet (like your refrigerator), and called for consumers to stop buying such products. But the same can very much be said for the ways in which companies utilize information and personal data when they don't need to.
Mobile applications asking for information that is totally irrelevant to the fact that I'm skulking along the promenade looking for a shiny Bulbasaur. What's more, these apps often come with vague and carefully written privacy policies that tell you very little, but just enough (and often to the tune of "you're using our product so we're selling your information").
A consistent undertone throughout the papers we attended today was that there isn't enough being done by governments to secure the data privacy of everyday people, and it is becoming more and more of a commodity.
The real question is: "What can I do about it?"
The answer (unfortunately) is not much. The easiest way to protect your personal information is to use a virtual private network (regularly referred to as a VPN). It encrypts your data and helps prevent snooping apps, websites, and even governments from knowing what you're up to online.
Today's talks were a great introduction to the conference, but Stamos' words really rung true with us. As the old adage goes, "keep it simple, stupid" – services need to simplify their privacy policies into clear and honest terms, stating explicitly what they will and will not do with your information. Moreover, applications and devices that don't need specific information (or internet connection for that matter) to carry out their primary function, should not be reliant upon it.