That Uneasy Feeling … Like You Are being watched!

by Vikram Venkatasubramanian

We are all being watched right now! Feeling creeped out? Well, you should be.

It used to be hard to surveil people back in the olden days – recruiting actual spies, placing them in strategic locations and positions. The perfect scenario was being able to get a spy in the suspect’s home!

Yeah, you had to be a suspect back then - at least in someone’s opinion to the extent they want to invest in spying on you - to be targeted in your own home. Today, there is an app for that!

Now, just HOW did we get HERE???!!!

The 4th Amendment was introduced to the US Constitution in 1791 to uphold the principle “Every man’s house is his castle”. The law placed restrictions on “unreasonable search and seizure”.  The telegraph was introduced in the 1830s and it took until 1862 for the first statute prohibiting wiretapping to be written by the state of California. It took until 1934 for to pass the first federal wiretapping law. Technology had outpaced legislation by almost 100 years!

Fast forward to 1994 and the birth of online shopping. Lou Montulli came up with the concept of the browser cookie to enable online shopping sites to create the concept of the ‘shopping cart’ on websites. The shopping cart would keep track of your intended purchases. We all loved it – we could keep shopping until we were ready to check out. Just like the grocery store! It was meant to be harmless … until marketers realized its full power.

The truth about internet cookies

We CONSCIOUSLY consented to the tracking of what we intended to buy i.e. our intent! It didn’t take too much genius for marketers to realize from that point on that this same technology that tracks intent could be repurposed to track our intent on every other site and then across every element of our internet use. When the tech is simple and the applications are very profitable, we get high octane adoption. Today every device, app, website and service uses tracking technologies across the spectrum of our internet engagement! The technology has evolved to track our off line lives just as much as our online lives. The impact to us has evolved from conscious tracking to ambient or unconscious tracking 24 hours a day, every day of our lives. For babies that are born today, thousands of companies know you from BEFORE you were born! Technology has yet again outpaced legislation!

We have all become informed enough to be conscious that we are tracked when we use a popular search engine, when we use ride share apps, when we share geo-location with someone, etc. Conscious tracking is when we share information with awareness of exactly who we share that information with, what the exact purpose is and for how long. There is no way each of us can be conscious that over 1557 dimensions of information about each one of us are being tracked and traded thousands of times a day by over 3000 different companies. Welcome to unconscious tracking or Dataveillance – a term coined by Roger Clarke in 1987(would have been surreal if he had coined it in 1984!). A $230B industry monetizes every one of our daily vulnerabilities and we have no control over what they collect, when they collect, who they share that information with and for how long.The tracking happens with technologies beyond cookies such as pixels, beacons, direct sharing from apps, device and more.

The team at Nandi Security is comprised of that subset of humanity that haven’t given up hope and better yet, are putting our talents to build technologies that give us better options. Our companies truly believe that if our needs can be served and we continue to gain value from our online searches and app interactions but without violations of our privacy, why not build the enabling technologies to make that happen? That is what we have done!

Our lives today rely heavily on various use of apps, devices, social networks and websites that blatantly violate our privacy and we rely on legislation to protect our castle or throw up our arms in resignation. One day, we hope legislation will catch up but that does not seem to be on the horizon today. Our mission at Nandi Security is to bring control of our data, privacy and indeed our lives back to our own fingertips.

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