June 05, 2021
Recently, my residential society ran a COVID vaccination drive and requested the phone numbers from all residents who wanted to get themselves vaccinated. Later, they shared a neat little spreadsheet with everyone in the society so everyone had confirmation about their own statuses regarding confirmation of a vaccination slot.
This spreadsheet had the exact apartment number, phone number, and full name of everyone who registered.
If this doesn’t seem like an issue to you, I have a post to link you to, and please continue reading the article right after the box.My approach to data privacy
If you already see an issue here, then you’re probably here for the tips. In any case, skip to right after the following lecture.
Ever wondered how all kinds of new spammers keep getting your phone numbers? How does some random person in some call center manage to call you and ask if you want insurance for the car that you wanted but didn’t buy yet? Or how someone calls you asking if you would like to join a weight loss program, even though you aren’t really interested in even joining a gym?
OR, you’ve probably gotten this call.
“Sir, would you like a pre-approved credit card?”
Turns out, when you use a service, be it a restaurant, a shop, or any online service that requires you to provide your email or phone number, you’re not just paying with money for those services. You’re also paying with your hours of peace of mind, uninterrupted sleep, and just the right to not be disturbed at random hours. Your data either gets sold, or stolen/hacked sooner or later.
Also, once your data is out there, it’s out there forever. Till you choose to change your number, and email, it will always be out there.
The scary thing about this is most people including myself will gradually keep releasing more and more info about ourselves over time, some of it being private and unintentional, and a lot of it completely intentional and often necessary. All this data can be pieced together to build a dataset about you that can probably do a pretty good job at answering questions about you that even you didn’t think of the answers to.
Now your email, phone, national ID, eating patterns, spending power, and more are out there, with someone interested enough in gathering all this because there are enough of those willing to pay good money for this.
And, there are so many more ways for you to release so much of your info that you’d prefer keep away from the hands of those who should have nothing to do with it.
So, why is this a big deal?
What if a health insurance provider decides to run a check on you and decides to decline you coverage because you used to eat a lot of pizza a few years ago, even though it doesn’t significantly impact your current health conditions? Or, maybe just offer you increased premiums because of the fact?
What if when you try and buy an apartment, the builder/owner runs a check on you, determine that you’re fairly well off compared to the average prospect, and raise the prices just for you?
An unintended party having access to your real-life identifiable data has strong real-life consequences.
This will only cover things that you can start doing from today, and that cost you no money to do, and not require being technologically adept.
Keep in mind that there will be times when it’s too difficult or inconvenient to follow these measures, so, take your best judgement in that case. My own data is probably in a million unintended hands already.
X. This copy is perfectly acceptable for basically any purpose that needs it. Though, there are enough issues on the government side of Aadhar anyway. source 1, source 2 (links from 2018)
If you can’t get a good answer by yourself or from someone else, reconsider if you really need this app.
If you do really need this app and you could not use it if you try to deny permissions, try this:
Grant the permission. This should let you past the initial screen that prevents you from accessing the rest of the app.
Open App Info. That should let you review the permissions of the app (along with letting you force stop it, or uninstall).
Disable the allowed permissions.
Go back to the app. In many cases, this works without issues. And the app may not ask for permissions again. But if the app becomes difficult to use now, you really have to consider how important this app is to you.
I’ll keep updating this list with ideas, but you’re welcome to share more with me on Twitter (link below).