According to University of Massachusetts psychologist, Robert Feldman, 60 per cent of people lie at least once during a 10-minute conversation. Especially when you are trying to appear likeable, not offend, capable or competent. Do you know who you never lie to though? Google.
Indeed, there is a high probability that Google knows you better than your spouse. The phrases you search for reflect your likes and aspirations, fears and trepidations - whether that is: News from Migori…Causes of red rashes...Arsenal vs Tottenham results…Best colleges for accounting …or How to get divorced (sssh don’t tell the wife!).
If you think these are private conversations between you and your search engine, think again.
Every time you use your Android device, access YouTube, Instagram or WhatsApp, even your internet provider is in on it - Big Brother is watching. Who dares to say no when you are browsing the internet and the pop-up screen appears asking if you consent to The ‘Cookies’.
I normally agree to these vaguely threatening messages, as I wish to continue using the site and who knows what will happen if you don’t accept.
As Al Franken, former US senator, says of the tech companies: “Accumulating massive troves of information isn’t just a side project for them. It’s their whole business model…We are not their customers; we are their product.”
And the problem is not so much that your search for ‘how many calories in a chocolate bar’, makes you a good candidate for Cadbury’s ads.
The issue is whether all the other data that is collected about you is used as innocuously or in a worst-case scenario, is secure from hackers.
Do you use Facebook?
The people’s republic of Facebook has over two billion netizens. It’s bigger than China, bigger than India and more populous than the whole of the African continent.
Its de-facto leader, Mark Zuckerberg, has unwittingly inherited many of the same headaches as a world leader. For instance, how to keep the peace.
The fact that Facebook may know more about you than your own government, makes it vulnerable to the sophisticated deceptions of unethical players whether it is Cambridge Analytica or Russia interfering with US election results; or other rogue elements such as terrorists using your platform to recruit followers for their misinformed ideologies.
And you know how John and Mary post photos of their new baby girl Waceke on their timeline, telling you the birth was at 3.02am, and of course that mother and baby are well at Mater Hospital in Nairobi? Well, they have just unwittingly created a digital footprint that exposes their child to identity theft in the future.
A fraudster now has key information that could allow them access banking details, government accounts etc.
Dear parents, there is a name for what you are doing. It’s called ‘sharenting’ meaning the over-sharing of children’s information on social media.
And if you live in the land of the Eiffel tower, your child could sue you for this. Let alone that in 18 years’ time, Waceke may cringe at having her future beaus or potential employers viewing half-naked toddler pics.
And you know how these days if you take a photo on an iPhone, it will be stored together with the name of your exact location.
Without your knowledge, this information may be shared. The answer to protect our individual online privacy may be global regulation. However this will take eons and we can’t live without the internet till then. So in the meantime, be safe. Be careful what you share.
The author is the Managing Partner of C. Suite Africa a boutique management consultancy. [email protected]