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Technology ‘Treats’ – or Threats?

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Amitabh Mishra

By Amitabh Mishra

The other day, a colleague remarked, “Imagine: a multi-billion-dollar industry originated from a single sensor!” He, of course, was referring to the cab hailing service, represented by the likes of Ola, Uber and Lyft, that have revolutionized how people view short commutes and travel within cities. These companies have been founded on the basis of a simple idea: GPS (global positioning system) devices on the user’s phone and taxis that allow movement tracking.

How incredible is technology! you may remark. Smart phones, apps and e-commerce are commonplace. In the future, when you enter your hotel room, not only will the TV switch on but it’ll also provide options of your favourite shows (e.g., football or crime drama). Siemens, the German manufacturer that builds heavy equipment for the likes of BMW, has a plant in Germany which is 75 per cent automated, with its 1,150 employees mainly operating computers and monitoring the processes. This has increased efficiency and reduced costs. Self-driving cars and human-like robots and augmented reality have captured the public’s attention.

Are technologies such as this a harbinger of undoubted progress for humanity? Hardly. It is suspected that two deadly crashes of Boeing 737 Max – just five months apart – were caused as a result, even if indirect, of a sensor malfunction that caused a software system known as ‘MCAS’ to forcibly point the aircraft’s nose downward. According to a recent Wall Street Journal story, US aviation authorities believe a bird collision may have set off the sequence of events that led to the downing of the second of the two ill-fated flights, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max in March, in which 157 people died.

Hidden cameras, also known as spycams, are being hidden in chargers, alarm clocks and virtually any small devices, with the unfortunate consequence that you could be in any public space (or, for that matter, any private space such as your hotel room), and someone could be watching you, a complete invasion of your privacy. In fact, a popular online hotel booking service was recently flagged when a provider of accommodation service was found to have a spycam in the room, pointed at the bed.

Most popular internet browsers track every site you visit, with a record of your clicks and purchases. While the tracking of your browsing behavior is acceptable when you have expressly consented to it (by accepting that the website is going to store and use what’s known as ‘cookies’), it isn’t acceptable that the browser does so by default and without seeking your approval.

When you order a product or service online and it’s delivered to your home in a matter of minutes or hours, you may appreciate the comforts of online purchases. But, unbeknownst to you, harmful software known as malware could be recording your clicks, in order to defraud you by recording your login credentials or credit card information. Such harmful malware could be masquerading as a device driver, making it hard even for professionals to eliminate the issue.

Facial recognition is an increasingly used technology by which a citizen’s or employee’s identification can be verified before a service is provided. However, with an increasing number of cameras in public spaces, there is an increasing apprehension that we could potentially be under surveillance whenever we step out into the open in urban areas. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s dystopian novel, describes a world where people have become victims of, among other things, omnipresent government surveillance. While such a state of affairs could be some time away, it pays to be aware of it and make sure to let your opinion be heard.

Increasing use of technological devices and advances may sometimes be harmful. View technology with a healthy dose of skepticism and even suspicion.

Privacy in private spaces such as hotel rooms is not always a given. Someone could be watching you on a hidden spycam. Be watchful in your hotel room and look for anything suspicious. Contact local police if you notice anything that bothers you.

Internet browsing is almost an essential function in today’s world. However, you could be getting closely tracked online and personal details about you could be getting aggregated. Use ‘Firefox’ internet browser in place of Internet Explorer or Google Chrome. Firefox installs far fewer ‘cookies’ than other browsers, so your privacy is much better protected.

Harmful software could be getting installed on your computer or laptop so that your identity could be stolen. Install anti-malware and anti-ransomware software on your personal device, and make sure to keep it up-to-date. Please note that this is not the same as anti-virus software which, while required, is not sufficient.

When you’re in a public space, you are probably aware that someone can see you on a camera. However, a criminal can use facial tracking software to track you in order to commit a crime. Become an enlightened citizen. Make sure to let government representatives know that it is not acceptable to install surveillance systems without the written consent of citizens. What is being tracked, and for what reason, must be made explicit.

The issue What you need to do
Increasing use of technological devices and advances may sometimes be harmful. View technology with a healthy dose of skepticism and even suspicion.
Privacy in private spaces such as hotel rooms is not always a given. Someone could be watching you on a hidden spycam. Be watchful in your hotel room and look for anything suspicious. Contact local police if you notice anything that bothers you.
Internet browsing is almost an essential function in today’s world. However, you could be getting closely tracked online and personal details about you could be getting aggregated. Use ‘Firefox’ internet browser in place of Internet Explorer or Google Chrome. Firefox installs far fewer ‘cookies’ than other browsers, so your privacy is much better protected.
Harmful software could be getting installed on your computer or laptop so that your identity could be stolen. Install anti-malware and anti-ransomware software on your personal device, and make sure to keep it up-to-date. Please note that this is not the same as anti-virus software which, while required, is not sufficient.
When you’re in a public space, you are probably aware that someone can see you on a camera. However, a criminal can use facial tracking software to track you in order to commit a crime. Become an enlightened citizen. Make sure to let government representatives know that it is not acceptable to install surveillance systems without the written consent of citizens. What is being tracked, and for what reason, must be made explicit.

Progress is important, but not as important as ensuring that no one is harmed. Leadership, government regulations, better technology design and testing, and your personal alertness are key to ensuring that no harm occurs. Be aware of your rights, and take the fundamental steps in order to protect yourself and your loved ones.


If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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