Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: gps

What Singh Couldn’t Have Predicted

Simon Singh makes many predictions about evident trends in the increasingly digital world. 20 years later, he got a lot of things right, although from our digitally oversaturated viewpoint, they seem obvious now.  Singh was definitely correct in his prediction that soon email would overtake normal mail, and this rang true for the early 2000s era when email was absolute king of the communications world. What Singh could not have predicted, however, was that email’s reign would be relatively short lived and soon give way to the era in which everyone walks around with a computer in their pocket, and instant messages and texting rule daily life (not to mention the communication capacities of every social media platform). Similarly, Singh’s prediction that ecommerce would become more prevalent in individuals’ lives also rings true. Widespread love of online shopping among most consumers, as well as ease-of-use companies like Amazon have created a world in which most people probably transfer credit card information on the internet at least once every day.

One topic that Singh does not touch on is the increased use of GPS technology. He could not have imagined that one day in the near future everyone would walk around with what can essentially be used as a tracking device in their pocket. Encryption for this kind of information is so necessary, to ensure that no foreign entity has the ability to track where you work, live, shop, or travel.

Many of Singh’s predictions came true, but in a grand way that he could never have imagined. The digital revolution ushered in a new era of almost impossible privacy—encryption is now more necessary than ever, not just to protect our communications, but also to protect our finances, information, and even our whereabouts.

Limiting Use of Location Services

Many college students sacrifice a large part of their privacy every day. They download a new app, and when it requests to use their location data, they agree without even thinking about it. While these services can certainly make things more convenient—you can quickly know what restaurants are around you, or find the closest gas station in seconds—using them means that your phone is continuously broadcasting where you are and what you’re doing. Using social networking apps can make this information even more blatantly obvious: by uploading geotagged photos you create a map of your activities and locations that would be fairly easy for someone to access.

In order to better protect their online privacy, students should better educate themselves about how their phone’s location services work and exactly what information they are sending out to the world. One of the easiest things to do is to simply avoid sharing where you are on social media—especially if you’re somewhere you can be found regularly. Additionally, you can more selectively use apps that require location data by leaving location services turned off most of the time, and only switching it back on if you absolutely need to. Taking steps like these only requires seconds of your time, but it makes a world of difference to your level of personal privacy.

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