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Apps collect and sell our data taking advantage of Coronavirus 


Are there applications that are taking advantage of the coronavirus alert to collect our data? Yes. All of them.

They are the ones that we normally have on our mobiles and use on a daily basis. They are profiting by wildly collecting and selling even more information than before.

Google is putting on the boots, Facebook I won’t tell you and others like Dropbox, Amazon or Zoom are doing the same thing.

In the case of Zoom, which has been among the most downloaded apps since confinement was imposed, collects a massive amount of data.

It not only saves voluntarily provided data such as your name and email address, but also the conversations, the documents we share, the time we are talking, our devices or our geolocation.

Consider that the situation is similar with video call applications such as Skype or Google Hangouts.

An apparent exception is Whereby, an end-to-end encrypted application. No one has access to contents shared on Whereby is one of several ethical alternatives whose business model is usually subscription.

Instead of using Gmail, you can use StartpageMail. Avoid using Instagram and change WhatsApp for Wire, an instant messaging application.

In addition, avoid using Facebook on mobile. This app logs all of our information, such as contacts and posts. If you use it, make sure to sign out completely.

If you don’t do it correctly, Facebook knows perfectly well the pages you visit. Keep in mind that the company uses dark patterns, that is, tricks in design to deceive the user.

After logging out, a page appears with the user’s profile picture and a red circle indicating notifications. You would have to click on the “x” to close the session completely.

Beyond the use of this type of social network, the greatest concern is the data of minors using software for classes, because their data also remain in the hands of technology giants.

Different centers choose to digitize their classes using tools from companies such as Google or Microsoft. Schools normally want to use this type of tool because of the ease, usability and how beautiful the design is.

Despite the fact that the tools for minors of these technological giants have a stricter privacy policy than those designed for the general public, they still remain invasive.

Tech companies know everything the children speak, where they are, what they write or the messages they send and much more. When a child is dyslexic and misspells, the tool detects it immediately and is already profiled as dyslexic.

There is still a lot of work to raise awareness about the social impact that such tools can have on children when they grow up. These companies say they do not make commercial profiles, but advertising is the least important thing right now. What matters is what will happen to those profiles once those children are no longer students.

What is that information going to be used for? The solution to avoid this would be to follow the example of some local governments which have created their own open-source tools and stores the information on their private servers.

Exceptional privileges?

The crisis caused by the coronavirus allows in some cases an exceptional use of the data. In fact, some 60 lawyers, philosophers, academics and privacy experts are addressing their privacy concerns to governments in regards to the use of technology that affects personal data.

Right now, what matters is the right to privacy. It seems perfect to use information as long as it is limited for the purposes for which it has been collected.

In many cases, processing personal data is allowed when it is necessary for reasons of public interest in the field of public health, such as protection against serious cross-border threats to health.

It is about very complex data because they point directly to the end user. An email may not point to you directly, but your DNA, your face, your fingerprint, or your health data.

If they fall into the wrong hands and get into biased algorithms, the big problem is that fully discriminatory automated decisions can be made with a very negative impact on society. It could be disastrous.

For this reason, it is essential to think about what will happen in the future with the information that governments intend to collect such as location or health data.

Where are these data falling and what are they going to do with such information later?

Once the alarm state is over, they would have to be removed or used for scientific research to prepare for new pandemics.

What is wanted to avoid “at all costs” is a state of permanent snooping. This is what happened, for example, in the United States with the 9/11 attack. Look at airports since then. Look at how many cameras there are. Many control measures have been imposed with the excuse of guaranteeing security, but in the process, people have lost liberty and security.

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About the author: Luis R. Miranda

Luis R. Miranda is an award-winning journalist and the founder & editor of The Real Agenda News. His career spans over 23 years in every form of news media. He writes about environmentalism, education, technology, science, health, immigration and other current affairs. Luis has worked as on-air talent, news reporter, television producer, and news writer.

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