Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Unsafer Internet Day

I'm a bit behind the times because lots of stuff is happening here.  I have several longish posts that
need a final proof-check, which I'm hoping to do today.  In the meantime, I couldn't resist a quick post about this:

As part of 'Safer Internet Day', Google is offering 2GB of cloud storage to anyone who completes their security check, as reported here: http://indianexpress.com/article/technology/tech-news-technology/safer-internet-day-google-account-online-security-google-drive/

There's obviously a good side to this, people need to take security more seriously and to understand the available security options and protect themselves as well as they can.

But 'safety' is a relative term and rather depends on what you have to gain and the price you need to pay for it.  In this case, users have a laughably small amount of free storage to gain plus an (arguably) more secure account, perhaps and hopefully a lesson to be learned.  But the downside is that Google will index the data users put in that space and sell the metadata.

As I've written countless times, metadata is often very sensitive, often in unexpected ways.  In Google's case, the metadata is linked to activity and content in all the other Google services and is therefore particularly valuable.  Plus, of course, Google also has data from the security review which might reveal user attitudes toward security.  This is potentially very dangerous, and therefore valuable, information.  A lot more valuable to Google - and to whoever they sell it to - than 2GB of cloud space is to the average user.

For perspective, I have two USB sticks small and nice-looking enough to wear on a string around my neck at all times with a combined capacity of 128GB.  This cost in privacy is a high one for such a cheap commodity as storage.  We're very bad, as a species, at making sensible privacy bargains.


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