Nothing To Hide

Nothing to Hide?

“I have nothing to hide” is what young people today often say when they laugh off concerns about putting personal information on Facebook, Instagram, and everywhere else for all to see. Nothing to hide? Think again! Are you so wise that you know what your career will be in 25 years or what the political climate will be?  Be very careful about what you post to Facebook, Instagram, blogs, and YouTube! There are two reasons, first because of medical insurance and secondly because of your career.

Why Privacy Is Important -Your Career

“Nothing to hide?” Maybe right now but how sure are you that what you say today wont come back to haunt you in a decade or that a photo you think is funny now wont end up being career limiting when it surfaces? Some companies DO google you and check out your Facebook page when you apply for work. You can be sure that if you have made posts boasting of faking being sick in order to go to the beach, or boasting about going to work every Monday with a big hangover that you wont be getting many calls for interviews.

You might not think your career is going anywhere but you never know what strange turns life may take and the last thing you want is some stupid photo of you smoking a joint to keep you from being confirmed to the Supreme Court. Even a photo of you drinking something as innocent as holding a glass of wine can cause you to be fired from some jobs!

Why Privacy Is Important – Theft

Dont make it easy for criminals to do their work, its pitifully easy without you rolling out the red carpet.  Identity theft and old fashioned burglary is big business.  Going on vacation for two weeks and leaving your un-alarmed house empty?  Probably not wise to do this if you have posted your address, phone number, and the fact that you just bought the fanciest, most expensive 200″ flat screen TV that money can buy.  Might as well leave the front door open.  Same with identity theft.  You know all those questions that you answer when setting up bank accounts?  Think twice about using information you have posted to Facebook for those security questions!!  Your high school?  Your pets name?  Those are commonly used questions for banks and my guess is there is a post on Facebook that would tell a would-be identity thief all they need to know to guess passwords and answer security questions.

Many bits of information that are completely innocent in isolation, can provide devastating ammunition for a thief wanting to make your life living hell.   Think what might happen should a thief happen to find that pre-approved credit card offer on the street after the recycling truck spilled it in the gutter.  The more information you put out there, the more scams that can be targeted at you.

Why Privacy Is Important – Medical Insurance

Until about 2 years ago, you could be denied medical coverage for pre-existing medical conditions. Things as simple as pre-hypertension, occasional smoking, occasional drinking, diabetes, low thyroid, depression, history of heart disease, a parent who died of cancer, obesity, or low testosterone could make you ineligible for health insurance. What is even worse, they would offer you coverage, you would pay premiums for decades, and then when you had a heart attack and it cost $200,000 for a 4 day hospital stay, they would deny your claim because you neglected to tell them that your great, great grandfather died of a heart attack or because you forgot to check off some box on your application form “you lied!”.

Basically, until 2 years ago, unless you were healthy as a horse there is no way you could get health insurance as an individual because companies only wanted to insure healthy people who would never need their services. It is only with the provision of the Affordable Care Act (commonly called Obama-care) that for the first time ever, insurance companies are being forced to offer affordable insurance to everyone regardless of pre-existing conditions.  The thing is, this ACA is very tenuous and many 2018 Republican hopefuls are running on the platform of dismantling “Obama-care” completely. Should that happen, we are back where we started where health insurance is un-obtainable except for twenty somethings … who don’t need it. Some things are best left private and your medical history is one of those things.

Think twice before posting a photo of you smoking that cigar with your first born child or a photo of you holding a beer because if insurance companies are again able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, those innocent photos could provide them with the ammunition to deny a claim in the future. Its fine now but one never knows what the political tides of the future will bring and once the photos are out there – they live forever and you cant recall them.

Similarly, don’t discuss your medications, conditions, mental health, depression, or anything else either for the same reason. You can bet that before paying out a $100,000 claim, the insurance company will have someone who is a black-belt at social media and google spend a few hours looking for pre-existing conditions, errors on insurance applications and all other excuses to deny a claim.

One point worth making, even before the A.C.A., large companies offered health insurance that didn’t penalize those with pre-existing conditions.  The thing is, if you look at the labor statistics, fewer and fewer people are working for large companies and more and more are ending up self-employed.  As as self-employed person without group bargaining power you are at the mercy of the A.C.A to provide you insurance.  You might have a job with a big company now but the trends say that a decade from now, that is less likely.

Why Privacy is Important – Websites and Google

Google and Big Data know who you are.  Your web searches tell google that you are about to buy a car so they inundate you with car ads.  No problem you say, you WANT to see these.  What about those searches for hemorrhoid treatments, symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases, and bankrupcy laws?  How comfortable are you going to be when your girlfriend uses your computer and sees these advertisements?   Consider reading the non-fiction book titled “Data and Goliath” by Bruce Schneier as it might change how you feel about letting everyone know everything about you.  There are rather simple things you can do by the way, you DO have control.  Using the Tor web browser with DuckDuckGo search engine on the Tails operating system is the easiest way.

Why Privacy is Important – Legal Spy Devices

“Spy devices” sounds so cold war thriller but every day millions of people happily use spy devices – its called “Siri” and “Amazon Echo”.  These are very sophisticated masses of AI software designed to make your life easier by listening to your every word so they can respond to help you when called upon.  Awesome!  When you want to know the weather in Bangkok, you just blurt it out.  What about that phone call you took from your best friend talking about what to do about the child you might have fathered?  What about that discussion you had at the poker table Saturday night talking about the side effects of your syphilis medication?  Oh, Amazon/Apple do not listen to that stuff!  Really?  Have you read the terms and conditions you signed?  I thought not.  What are you going to do when the free pregnancy test kit shows up in your mail box along with coupons for wedding photographers?  No, this has not happened to my knowledge and I do not think that Apple and Amazon do this now but that does not mean they cant and wont.

Why Privacy is Important – Illegal spy devices, IoT

Internet Of Things (IoT) is our wonderful future where all our appliances will be interconnected to perform more efficiently and easier.  Dishwashers, washing machines, microwaves, heating/AC systems, alarm systems, automobiles, and pacemakers all working in concert to effortless run our homes and make our lives easier.   The huge problem here is that these devices are very insecure and easy to hack into.  This network of things could be the biggest risk to our internet ever posed.  Hackers have already taken over millions of these devices to attack and disable whole companies by pummeling them with traffic.  You are not a big company, why should you care?  Well there are cases of data from implanted medical devices being taken without permission and used against the patient.  Who cares, you dont have a pacemaker.  Many smart devices have voice recognition built in so there is little work for hackers to do, think about your car – its always listening to you. Why are you so sure are you that car conversations are not transcribed and saved?   Even if your smart device does not have voice recognition, many of its sensors, like the vibration sensors in washers and dryers can be used as microphones.   Do you want ever electrical device in your house lisetening to what you say and sending it back to Big Data?  How much do you want these companies to know?  Think I am just making shit up here and screaming “the sky is falling”?  You have heard of randsomeware, its malevolent software that locks up your computer and will not give control back to you unless you pay them.  Take this to the next level, hackers get their virus into the smart toasters in every kitchen in America, transcribing conversations and scanning for blackmail keywords like “abortion” and “mistress”.  These people get an email with the voice recording and instructions what they need to do to keep this from being broadcast to their entire contacts list.  How far fetched is that? My guess is that we will see a case of this in the next decade.   What to do, simple, avoid smart devices and get basic “dumb” devices.  On my Boxter I intentionally refused all electronics options:  no automatic transmission, no smart cruise control, no self parking, no data connections of any type, not even GPS.

Guard your privacy!

Still think your life is an open book? Please consider avoiding electronic assistants like “Amazon Echo” and “Siri”.  Consider buying dumb appliances rather than smart, interconnected ones.  Consider doing your web browsing in the Tor instead of Firefox, IE, or Safari and consider using DuckDuckGo instead of Google or Yahoo as a search engine.   Please be careful before you post in a public setting like Facebook or Instagram!! Remember, Facebook is notorious for resetting your privacy settings to “all public” when they upgrade their software! Post nothing to the internet that you would not want your grandmother, your boss, your insurance agent, your wife, your pastor, and the IRS to see and you will be fine.