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Web Based Apps and Social Networks

 

There are a growing number of web based applications that enable us to connect in ways that have never before been posssible, but what do we know about these 'apps'?

 

Scanning through the news to keep up with the latest trends and developments has thrown up some suprising facts about the way the data used in these popular packages. Recently Microsoft has changed the way in which Skype uses instant messaging and chat in a way that will make the content of these calls more available to law enforcement agencies. Microsoft has obtained the technology to give it the  capability to silently copy the communication between at least two entities" on Voip (voice over internet protocol) calls. No doubt this fact is included somewhere in the terms and conditions of use for Skype but how many people look that closely when signing up for the service?  And what about the seemngly inocuous question about allowing Microsoft to gather information about you and pass this along to other 'Microsoft partners' ? The burning question is how much information and what exactly do they capture? Skpe is largley used as a free service by many and this cost needs to be recovered from somewhere, selling personal data is the prime way of achieving this for most providers of these 'free servcies'.

 

 In a similar vien, Google has admitted it still has data that was collected by its streetcar operation by scanning unsecured wireless networks in the UK  Google apologised for gathering the data and said it was a "mistake" which led to legal action, fines and investigations around the world,including the UK, where Google gave an undertaking to destroy the data it was holding and issued a statement saying it had done so in December 2010.

 Deputy information commissioner Gary Davis said the search giant's action was "clearly unacceptable" and demanded answers by Wednesday. 'Hugely embarrassing' Peter Fleischer, Global privacy counsel, said in a statement: "Google has recently confirmed that it still has in its possession a small portion of payload data collected by our Street View vehicles in the UK. Google apologises for this error."  The ICO's probe into the collection of wi-fi data was re-opened earlier in July when the privacy watchdog became aware of reports that a Google engineer had deliberately written software to obtain a wide range of material. The question that should be asked is why was the data collected in the first place and to what use would the data be put?

 

As users we put our trust in the companies that provide these services and hope that they will respect our privacy. After all we enter into a joint partnership with them when we sign up to take the service don't we? As users we have started to depend more and more on these apps, using them not only for recreation purposes but for conducting business as well. How can we be sure that the conversations and nessages we send are secure and will not be used in ways we did not intend? With the pressure for these large organisations to make more profit in shrinking marketplaces the obvious answer is to expand into new areas and this means they need to collect market intelligence to give them the edge on their competion.

 

Whether it is Facebook, Google, Microsoft or any of the other providers of these free seervices the only way they will cover their costs and make a profit is by either flooding you with advertising or collecting valuable data that can in turn be used to sell products and services back to you.

Of course we should continue to use these services but armed with the knowledge that everything you do within these apps can be monitired and could potentially be used by the providers of the service. A good example of this is the way in which search engines display thier results. If you thought you were getting every 'hit' from your enquiry then you would be wrong. Every search engine collects data about your preferences and habits whilst online and these are used to filter the results they want you to have.