Last weekend my friends visited our house. Had not seen them for a year and was happy to meet again. In the evening Facebook autonomously proposed me to connect to these people also over Facebook. I haven’t ever been searching for these friends in Facebook and now that they visit our house, all of the sudden Facebook proposes them as my friends. Mildly creepy, I would say. How did Facebook know? This may have something to do with that we exchanged a couple of text messages before meeting and our smartphones spent some hours in the same geographical location.
Yesterday I received a LinkedIn invitation from a person that I’m expecting to get to know in a couple of weeks. I accepted the invitation but pulled the acceptance back as it turned out that it was sent from a fake profile having the same name and title as this real life person. A bit creepier as I’m positive that I have not touched any digital device at the location where I’m expecting to meet this person.
These incidents reminded me of a recent cyber security lecture at Aalto University. On Feb 9th Mikko Hyppönen, F-Secure’s famous cyber sheriff, brought cyber security as a part of our everyday lives under topic “The current situation in European Cyber Security”. You can view the recorded presentation in YouTube: link.
As Hyppönen demonstrated during his lecture, cyber security is not something that takes place only in highly protected data centers but it is part of our everyday lives. The internet services are seemingly free of charge but the thing is that the charge is not measured in currency but in privacy of the users. And this is how it goes with some illustrated examples:
We tell LinkedIn about our carrier achievements and colleagues.
We tell Facebook about the highlights of our lives and friends.
To Google we tell what we do not know and about what we would like to know more about. I’m mainly thinking of just the search engine in this simple visual illustration, though they offer plenty of other services as well.
I’ve been comforting myself thinking that the social services are profiling customers as larger groups and that no human intervention is involved in the analysis. After listening to Hyppönen’s lecture and these personal experiences I’m a bit less comfortable with the ever-cleverer cyber algorithms monitoring my life.