Privacy and smartphones: the new mines for precious digital data

Privacy has been treading the scene for some years now: every day we sign licenses and forms, even on our smartphones, for digital data. But do we really know what we agree to give in exchange for a free application? Very often, free licenses are paid for with a much more valuable currency: our data. Having access to inside information about our lives is a competitive advantage that more and more companies are willing to pay for .

What is certain is that some big giants already have access to much more data than we think. For example, Google offers a large suite of products that allows us to meet almost all of our needs. Do we need information? There is the # 1 search engine in the world. What if we had to go somewhere? Google maps take care of us. To entertain ourselves on the journey we could instead see a video on YouTube or listen to music from Play Music. We can also take our personal documents with us, thanks to Drive and edit them with all the apps available. It seems like a commercial but in reality it is a sad reality in which we offer a lot of extremely relevant data to companies that should keep them .

Privacy and smartphones: the master key for our data

In recent years we have seen countless cases related to privacy problems through the use of apps or advanced profiling systems on the web. The most famous is certainly that of C ambridge Analytica , the British company that collected personal data in order to carry out targeted marketing campaigns towards certain individuals. In addition, we have more and more consistent evidence about the ease of retrieval from t sensitive by surfing the Internet we can, in part, reduced by the use of browsers and operating systems to the most popular alternative .

But let's go step by step trying to understand first of all what digital data profiling is, even via smartphone, and why it is so important for privacy. The Document on the guidelines on profiling of the Working Group pursuant to Article 29 defines it as follows: " the collection of information on an individual, or a group of individuals, to analyze the characteristics in order to insert them into categories, groups or to be able to assessments or forecasts ". Profiling, therefore, is that set of automatic mechanisms that collect information on our behavior, with the aim of obtaining a virtual image of our person (understood as interests, preferences, even our political ideology) that reflects us as much as possible. possible.

The importance of privacy: smartphones as a vehicle for collecting digital data.
The importance of privacy: smartphones as a vehicle for collecting digital data.

Once we have our profile, what do companies do with it? Actually a lot. Classic marketing is based on large-scale communication campaigns that embrace the entire population and therefore involve extremely high costs. If, on the other hand, companies had the opportunity to know in advance the possible customers of their product, they could direct their marketing campaign exclusively towards a specific subset of people , on the one hand saving costs and on the other seeing more customers arrive. interested.

The importance of digital data

This introduction allows us to understand how important and precious data are today. Who has access to this data is in a dominant position as in the case of Google and its ecosystem. The “Google Data Collection” study by Professor Schmidt of Vanderbilt University analyzes how much data smartphones exchange with the well-known Big G platform. It should be noted that the study dates back to 2018 so it is possible that some aspects of the research have changed in the meantime, by virtue of changes in data protection legislation personal and also due to updates to the Android operating system.

First of all, it is evident that Google is able to collect a vast amount of information in a context typical of a working day (24 hours) not only through the classic mechanisms of cookies or proprietary apps but also (and above all) thanks to the sensors and connectivity of our devices. In fact, thanks to GPS but also to Bluetooth or public Wi-Fi it is possible to have a fairly detailed picture of a person's movements. The picture seems to be enriched when we use the applications of the Palo Alto house.

The digital data held by Google is much more than we think. Credits: Android Gadget Hacks
The digital data held by Google is much more than we think. Credits: Android Gadget Hacks

Do you want to have an idea of ​​the amount of data extracted, even when the user does not interact with the phone for the whole 24 hours? Know that the smartphone contacts Google's servers 14 times an hour, about 350 times in a day . If, on the other hand, the user interacts with the phone, the position data (already most of the information collected) increases by 1.4 times and, by the end of the day, the servers will have collected about 11.6 MB of information. The study also highlights the difficulty of collecting in the case of using an iPhone (Apple jealously guards information about its customers for itself). The amount of data decreases even more if the user does not use Chrome as a browser for navigation.

However, the most obvious fact remains the strong integration between the various Google tools. In fact, many communication and profiling campaigns are carried out using services such as AdWord, DoubleClick, Google Analytics. These systems should be able to carry out an anonymous profiling, that is, collecting information about a user to whom, however, an identity is not associated. The mechanism jams, however, in the service manager, Google itself, which has all the information available so that an anonymous identifier can be linked to a user's profile , thus nullifying the anonymity of the collection.

Europe protects us

Although the picture we have analyzed seems worrying due to the amount of information that is collected as we surf the web, we must be confident that institutions are working to ensure that there is some form of regulation in the digital world as well. The European Union with Regulation no. 679 of 2016, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), has clearly established what are the limits beyond which we speak of violation of personal data .

With the GDPR, the Regulator wanted to ensure greater transparency on the mechanisms for acquiring consent from users, favoring greater security in the conservation of personal data and their possible treatment, establishing new digital rights for Union citizens but above all defining rules strict in cases of violation of the law. These are important points that give us hope in the quality of digital process security on our continent.

Privacy is one of the hottest topics in the world.

In any case, we must accept that we live in a society that knows a lot about us (more than we can imagine). The alternative would be to be left out and live in a non-digital world which unfortunately does not exist. Smartphones, in fact, are now part of our life, and it is therefore important to know the value of privacy and our digital data.

Article by Nicola Fioranelli

The article Privacy and smartphone: the new mines for precious digital data comes from Tech CuE .