In an article titled “Sound Byte: We trust the Internet with things that were once kept private,” Pakistan’s English newspaper DAWN spoke to Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert regarding the privacy concerns that individual Internet users can face. Given that our communications are increasingly mediated through the Internet, such as by the placement of data on “cloud-computing services,” the possibility of intrusion into private information has increased.
When asked what the most common methods of infiltrating individuals’ information are, Deibert identified mobile devices, such as cellphones, as a key source of private information. “Every few seconds it emits an electronic pulse, a kind of beacon, to the nearest wifi router or cellphone tower that contains information about the make and model of the phone, the geolocation of the phone, the operating system, and sometimes even the name of the individual who owns the phone,” Deibert said. He added that this information is stored on the servers of companies that provide our digital services. Because this storage process involves applications on the phone, the SIM card, cell towers, the wifi router, and other digital infrastructure, a vulnerability in any one of these leads to the possibility of revealing personal information.
Commenting on the cyber security practices of telecommunications and Internet companies, Deibert explained that there was wide variance amongst them, and thus that there were few internationally accepted standards on safeguarding the private information of users. Deibert said that often, we are unaware that our information is being passed from one service provider to another, any of which may be vulnerable to attack. “Not only are these companies susceptible to targeted attacks, they might also be susceptible to pressure from criminals and nation-states to comply with demands to share user data, with or without a warrant,” Deibert concluded.