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Friday, August 06, 2010

How do you like your personal data ?

With millions of people boarding the Internet bandwagon for their daily communication needs, the exponential growth of data has been anything but expected.

Smart phones are becoming a way of life and so are mandatory "data plans" from the wireless providers. No longer you can have the luxury of buying a Blackberry or iPhone and use it to just make calls, send a few SMSes and listen to some music. Agreed, In India and other countries you still have this luxury, if you pay for the phone in full and then use prepaid.

The recent "leaks" of data and the request for "backdoors" to secure data centres from the government have been instances where the government with all its infrastructure seems to be lagging behind in coming up with measures to monitor this ever exploding traffic of data and sniff out bits which might be of national security interest ( that's what they say ).

With global corporations and trans continental business and communication transaction, the limits to which a country can exercise its powers of restraint and investigation are blurred. The recent example of Blackberry maker RIM coming under the radar of the Indian government and now the UAE, Saudi and Indonesian government is such an example.

Security over internet is as important having a lock over your the main door of your home. The government is allowed to open it when it thinks there is a case, but how protective would you feel if the government declares that it can barge into your house at any time for any reason without requiring a warrant and a tangible doubt over your activities.

I love Blackberry for one major reason "Security", which means, if I ever forget my phone or it is lost, I am sure that no one can access anything on my phone and will end up getting either a brick or a firmware formatted phone if possible.

With the current state security measures which feel like the government is looking for "keywords" to search out susceptible information or flow of communication, chances of a normal citizen coming under the scanner without doing anything dangerous is quite possible. This coupled with knowledge of that government is capable of reading your most personal communications would drive any person to try to cover even more of their tracks if their intentions are really destructive.

I always feel it is fair for the government to clandestinely access data about its citizens and about other people when it feels there could be a threat due to their activities. Declaring these kind of activities in open might deter some weak heart folks to drop their negative intentions, but what about people who are brainwashed and readied for martyrdom. Are they going to care whether the government will find out their activities before they accomplish their mission, I think not.

The attacks on Mumbai on the 26/11 had something very specific to "Blackberry" being used for communication. I guess that is what has led to Indian government to target that company so that future use of smart phones like Blackberry can be tapped into. I have no clue as to what other countries found so limiting in RIM's security protocols which couldn't live up to their local guidelines leading to the ban.

I think the takeaway from the "Wikileaks" and "RIM" issues for the common man are :

1. Be cognizant of what you share and what you write on anything which connects to the Internet.
2. Not everything is lost in the World wide web, the bits do keep travelling, and now the government wants to read them.
3. Segregate what portions of life are "tagged" online and what remain strictly offline.
4. Expand the cerebral storage God has given, no government can steal it from there unless the movie "Inception" becomes a reality in near future.

Happy surfing.

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