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We send out massive amounts of data about ourselves when we visit websites, download apps, and even answer those fun online quizzes. That leaves us vulnerable to a host of privacy issues.  Emerging Prairie’s Ashley Thornberg visited with Darren Leno, the founder of Encryptomatic LLC. He’s a former product manager for Microsoft, Business Solutions Division, and a software product marketing consultant.

What are you most concerned about when it comes to internet privacy?

Privacy, encryption, and control of our personal information should be the default setting on all of the apps, services and devices we use, and for all regulations governing them.  As consumers and citizens, we shouldn’t have to“opt in” to privacy. We need to begin with the expectation of privacy.

Do most people have any idea how much personal data is collected?

No, not at all.  It’s uncomfortable to think about, hard to understand, and the scope is so broad. This information is aggregated and shared in ways that can make our lives better, more fun, and interesting. I don’t have a problem with using the tech to make life better. The greater problem is that this information persists, [there are] few controls over how it can be used, and we are not in control of it.

What websites/apps/quizzes/games are the worst offenders?  

There was the high profile case last year of flashlight apps collecting all kinds of user location data and sending it back to a Russian server. No app is truly free. The developers need to be paid, and if they are not selling the app then their business model is probably to sell you to advertisers.

What steps can we take to increase our privacy and security?

That is quite literally the billion dollar question. Privacy and security are related, but it’s useful to think of them separately. Security is how we stay safe, and privacy is the personal space we have to explore and learn more about the world.

To increase our security, we should start by defending the devices we use with strong encryption.  An unencrypted device is vulnerable in so many ways, not the least of which is simply losing the device or having it stolen.  At the same time, we need to be vocal about our right to use strong encryption.

To maintain privacy,  we need to understand that our personal information is a valuable currency and treat it as such.  Let’s be careful about what we share about ourselves, and also articulate to tech companies and government that we want control over the information that is collected.

Here’s a short checklist of easy things you could do today.

1. Support the Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org) and let them educate you. Let them be your guide.

2. Take control of your texting by using IM platforms that are committed to privacy. Signal, Wire, Whatsapp and Telegram rank high for their end-to-end encryption. Google’s new Duo video chat app uses end-to-end encryption. Signal is my personal favorite for the strong  conviction of their developers to protecting your privacy.

3. Encrypt your phone today and lock it with a password.

4. Punish tech companies that don’t stand up for the privacy of their users, or who are careless with the data of their users.

5. Tell your legislators that you want the right to review and revoke the information that companies quietly gather on you. Let them know that you have an expectation of privacy.

6. Binge watch Mr. Robot. It will freak you out.

Could the upcoming presidential election impact internet privacy? i.e. Is one candidate particularly strong or weak on privacy concerns?

Sadly, among the major party candidates the issue is not being discussed.

Instead, Leno suggests looking at a third-party candidate. Leno is the founder of Encryptomatic LLC, founded. He’s a former product manager for Microsoft, Business Solutions Division, and a software product marketing consultant.

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Ashley Thornberg