While information communication technologies and social media platforms have impacted businesses positively and helped people stay connected, concerns around online safe, improper use of data, and breach of privacy by technology giants have raised new questions.
A recent example is the statement issued by Apple Inc which states that a software patch will be issued for a bug that allows iPhone users to hear audio from users who have not yet accepted their calls. Reuters had successfully replicated the bug and discovered that it allows an iPhone user making a call using Apple’s FaceTime feature to hear audio from the recipient’s phone even if they have not yet answered the call. While an Apple spokesperson said that they are aware of the issue, and that they will fix it immediately, the question at large remains the same. Are we secure on the internet? How advanced is technology that it would allow anybody calling you on FaceTime to hear you before you answer a call? If this is just a bug; an unintentional issue, what can be done with intention?
In another example, Alphabet Inc.’s Google said that it had disabled an iPhone app that it had paid some users to install on their devices in order to study their digital habits. This was followed shortly by Facebook Inc who carried out a similar move. Google and Facebook both have faced blacklash from privacy experts for disturbing their research apps through a programme that was designed by Apple Inc for companies to distribute apps to employees. “The Screenwise Meter iOS app should not have operated under Apple’s developer enterprise program — this was a mistake, and we apologize” —Google said in a statement, while Apple did not respond immediately.
In a similar turn of events, Apple Inc stated that it had banned Facebook Inc from a programme that was designed to allow businesses to control iPhones that were used by their employees. They stated further that the social networking company has misused this programme to track the web browsing habits of teenagers. According to TechCrunch, a technology news site, Facebook had paid users as young as 13 years of age to install an app called Facebook Research on their phones. The app used Apple’s business tools to ask for the permission of a user to install the ‘virtual private network software’ that can track browsing habits. Facebook responded by stating that there was ‘nothing secret’ about this as participants were given a clear explanation, and paid for their participation They also said that less than 5% of the participants were teens and that all of them had signed parental consent forms.
Among many other controversies aligned with Facebook, German’s antitrust watchdog announced that there will be a crackdown on Facebook’s practices on data collection after it ruled that the world’s largest social media network has abused its market dominance by gathering information on its users without their knowledge or consent.
Such recent events highlight the urgent need to address concerns on privacy and security on the internet, specifically, the need to raise awareness of how one’s personal data are being used.