10/13/2017 / By Michelle Simmons
In this internet age, everything — from government services, shopping, and banking— can be accessed online. However, you are first required to create an account to use their services. But, you may want to think twice before creating accounts online. Experts warn that online services ask for more personal information than necessary when users sign up for their services, as reported by the Science Daily.
“We have for instance seen that some service providers ask for information that they do not need for the main purpose of the service they offer,” Lothar Fritsch, researcher in IT-security at Karlstad University, said.
In some situations, other methods can be used for these services to protect users and their privacy. Apparently, a lot of service providers prefer methods that will collect as many details about their users as possible, thus posing a threat on online user privacy and security. (Related: Online Privacy And Security Tips Everyone Should Know About.)
“They may ask for details while assuring the user that these will not be shown publicly or are protected by a user policy,” Fritsch said. “These details are then used to find out as much as possible about users to enhance their business opportunities, something which is not mentioned in any agreements.”
In addition, mobile apps are also being used to acquire information about users. Most of the time, the use of specific information is required when installing an app on a smartphone. Previous studies have concluded that users find it hard to understand the flow of information and what one is actually giving permission to. Moreover, when the user has allowed the app to access his information, invalidating the permission is difficult or almost impossible.
“When we as users give apps access to certain information on our smartphones, we also make it possible for the actor behind the app to identify us,” Nurul Momen, a doctoral student in Computer Science, said.
Momen expressed that they want to come up with ways to make users aware of what it means when apps gain access to specific types of information on smartphones.
The new study was presented at an international conference about digital identities at Karlstad University.
Internet users in the U.S. may be more exposed to online privacy threats as President Donald Trump signed in April a resolution of the Congress that allows internet service providers to collect and sell the browsing history of consumers without their knowledge or consent, according to a report by USA Today.
The legislation overturned the broadband privacy rules passed by the Federal Communications Commissions during the final months of former President Barrack Obama. It required providers to ask the permission of the customers first before collecting, using, and selling their personal information and notify customers when they experienced a data breach.
The repeal was praised by the Republicans and the internet service providers, who complained that the restriction was unfair because huge internet companies, such as Google and Facebook, were not subject to it.
In contrast, the European Commission hit search giant Google $2.7 billion with an antitrust fine in June, according to a report by The New York Times. The search engine company was fined for giving prominent placement in searches to its own shopping service called Google Shopping and demoting its competing shopping sites. Two months after it was fined, Google appealed against the antitrust fine imposed by the Commission, as reported by Reuters.
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