OPINION: It’s time to start reading the terms of service before clicking ‘agree’

by | Sep 29, 2017 | Opinion

Brett McGarry
Arts Editor

The speed of the internet has come to dominate how we stay informed and connected to the world and it has fundamentally changed how people live. A side effect of this unavoidable change is how much of our personal information is hosted and stored online.

Every digital step we take leaves a footprint that is either collected as aggregated data or traced back to you as an individual. We don’t have to look back very far to see exactly how the security ofour information can be compromised.

In 2014, Yahoo saw one the biggest hacks in internet history. It was discovered that between 2013 and 2014 about 1.5 billion accounts had stored personal information stolen. The investigation led to several arrests, including a Canadian and a few Russian intelligence agents.

Most recently, a hacker broke into the systems of the credit data company, Equifax, and stole the personal information of 143 million Americans and an undisclosed number of U.K. and Canadian residents. Governments know valuable information is stored in email and social media. Since the Trump administration took to the Oval Office and promised to crack down domestic and international security, crossing a border has become exponentially more difficult.

Although it may seem like it would be illegal, it is fully within the powers of border security agents to ask you to open your laptop and cellphone so they can examine its digital contents and accounts. They may not ask you to open your social media, but it is now part of a mandatory procedure to have your electronic devices charged and without protective cases for inspection should they decide to ask.

All of these instances point towards a large shift in how the world is viewing personal information online. Once upon a time, it was entirely possible to avoid putting sensitive information on theweb, but the world we live now is almost entirely digitized. Tax, credit and banking information, personal information, personal photos and videos and even our shopping and travel patterns is all now stored and hosted somewhere on the internet and it is live.

What steps should be we taking to prevent breaches in our privacy?

Unfortunately, not as much as we may like. A credit company or corporation choosing to digitize its records is not a decision left up to the public. It’s just a symptom of thetimes and the security of this information is left to unseen IT personnel and software developers.

I don’t know about you, but the thought of this makes me slightly uncomfortable. Guarding what information you choose to put on the internet is left entirely up to us.

People who grew up with the internet have no choice but to be aware of the issues around internet privacy and what information we leave out in the open.

This means thinking critically when signing up for websites and forums, reviewing what information is mandatory and what isn’t. It also means reviewing the security policies on social media.

Being complacent is an attitude adopted by my peers all too often. If we don’t accept the fact that using the internet comes with responsibilities, we may all become subject to international frauds or information theft, which could jeopardize our jobs and lifestyles, and threaten the credibility of our names.