Tech viewpoint on privacy
A view from Will Francis

Tech viewpoint on privacy

While we continue to argue over who’s to blame for the celebrity nude photo leak, a vital question raised is: just how well do we know our technology?

The hackers who found these photos are criminals in the same way a burglar is. But, as more and more of us are connected to the internet, treating our mobile devices as an extension of the human self, it is clear that people are still in the dark when it comes to security. The whole of our private life might be stored on these devices, but we don’t know how to protect it or understand the risks.

The thing is, these devices are almost fundamentally insecure. A phone is a computer that is constantly connected to the internet and can communicate with billions of other devices around the world. Like it or not, you’re part of the network.

Today, being tech-minded is an enormous asset, but technology needs to be less exclusive, better understood and more widely embraced. The onus should also be on the likes of Apple and Dropbox to make sure information is available and their customers are prompted to understand the technology they buy. You can’t expect non-tech-savvy people to study the ins and outs of cloud storage – it’s up to the experts to share the benefits and risks.

The problem is that services such as iCloud are attractive because, on the face of it, they are very simple. They are quick to sign up to and easily navigated, which is something we have come to expect of technology. The best technology is the most invisible technology – it just goes away and works. If there are complicated dashboards, multiple options and buttons to push, it becomes more visible, demanding and frictional – and we would eventually switch off. However, we must also make sure that speed and ease don’t lull us into forgetting to deliberate over what we put online. We need to take responsibility for what we share and store.

The problem is that services such as iCloud are attractive because, on the face of it, they are simple

It’s no surprise the scandal has induced a fresh wave of panic through mobile phone and social media users. Once again, data is the dish of the day. Who has access to it? How will it be used against us? And we must equally ask ourselves: do we understand how it works?

Social media is changing public expectations when it comes to privacy, demonstrated by the popular opinion that these celebrities only had themselves – and their naïvity – to blame. People are getting used to trading data for online services, having it monetised and exposed in unexpected ways. And, thanks to constant updates, any security system should be safer than it was previously. The collateral is grim, but hacks ensure flaws are identified and, consequently, security is increased.

We need to recognise that there is a disparity between the promise of the product in our pockets and the reality of the risks. Only then will our privacy be truly protected.

Will Francis is the director at Harkable