28th January is commemorated as ‘Data Privacy Day’ worldwide.

While the Data Privacy and Security folks are all charged up and enthusiastic, as always, about this day, we find that it quietly passes by the vast majority of people for whom it is actually relevant – all of you out there who are heavily invested in the digital world via Emails, via social media like Facebook / Twitter, via online activities like shopping or simply browsing, or via even simple sms’ing.

So we at Arrka decided to mark this day by kicking-off our own small contribution to the world of Data Privacy: a series of short posts to educate and spread awareness about  the Why?-What?-When?-How?-Where? of data privacy.

This is the first in the series: Why is Data Privacy relevant to ME?

So do you do any of the following?

  • Browse the web?
  • Send email?
  • Use Search (like Google)?
  • Send smses?
  • Use Social Media like Facebook, etc?
  • Fill out (paper-based) forms from time to time?

If ‘yes’ to any of the above, then you are in the direct line of the privacy fire.

Here are a few points that will probably have you sit up and realise why:

– 300 Billion1 plus emails are sent & received everyday. Copies of ALL of them go into permanent storage somewhere on the Internet – even the ones you delete!

  • Most email service providers and corporate email services can and do track WHERE you opened your email from and WHEN
  • The content of ALL emails sent & received via free, public mail services (like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc) are noted & tracked by the service provider. How else do you think you get to see ‘related ads’ next to your mail messages (Test it out – open a gmail message and check out the ads that pop up next to it)
  • All mails sent & received using corporate mail ids are stored and archived by the company – even the ones you delete.

– There are 1 Billion plus users on Facebook today serving up 650,000 comments per min2

  • Every move you make on Facebook is analysed and put into permanent storage
    • Status messages, comments, likes, info, messages, photos…
    • deleted messages, events, date/time/location of logins, multiple users on one comp….
  • Facebook also collects all sorts of background info while you browse
    • For eg, it tracks which other websites you visit when you are logged in– even if you don’t hit the “like” button on the other website
  • And remember, Facebook is a publicly listed company now, under pressure to monetize its rich data!

-Google records 2 million searches per min2

  •  For each search query, it stores your search history, which sites you visit from the search results and your location
  • Remember, the search terms you feed in are used to form your behavioral profile – which in turn is shared with online ad networks

-Every sms you send is stored permanently by your mobile service provider

-What about the physical world?

  • Have you ever filled out a Credit card / insurance / etc application and never actually got the product? Ever wondered where that personal info you filled out has gone?
  • When was the last time you filled out a contest form or dropped off your visiting card for a ‘lucky draw’? Ever wondered who ALL get hold of that info you give out?

We live in an era where we “trade” our personal info for a number of free services in return. This is fair indeed – under various circumstances. It is just that, as an individual, it is important that you KNOW that you are doing this trade and are fully aware of your actions and their implications.

A lot of the current global conversations on Data Privacy and its related policies, regulations and laws are with regard to bringing out ‘what goes on underneath’ to the forefront and giving individuals the right to control at least some aspects of this phenomenon – as well as holding organisations & governments dealing with personal data responsible and liable for the security and proper use of the same.

Over a series of subsequent posts, we intend to ‘de-mystify’ data privacy a bit, explain HOW a lot of this happens and generally equip you with necessary awareness so you know how to be careful as you reap the joys and benefits of today’s digital world.

Meanwhile, the best thing to do is ‘Stay Paranoid and thus, Stay Safe’

PS: Remember to follow this blog to keep abreast of our subsequent blog posts.

-Posted by Shivangi Nadkarni, Co-Founder & CEO, Arrka Consulting. www.arrka.com | @arrka2 | @shivanginadkarn


  1. Figure as of 2011 (http://royal.pingdom.com/2012/01/17/internet-2011-in-numbers)
  2. http://techliberation.com/2011/05/18/some-metrics-regarding-the-volume-of-online-activity/

12 Thoughts to “Stay Paranoid, Stay Safe”

  1. Jayant

    Good show – Shivangi

  2. Sushilkumar Nahar

    Well said, Stay Paranoid – Stay Safe
    First bold step towards Data Privacy and Protection would be to start Classification of Data.

  3. This looks like a practical presentation of privacy – it is about time that we concentrated on what the end-user can do and what education the privacy community needs regarding *how* things are collected and then try to put in place the necessary engineering structures to help the end-user manage their data.

    1. Yes, Ian – you are absolutely right! This being the first in a series, given the audience this is intended for, we first wanted to make the case as to WHY they need to care in the first place. Hoping to cover individual aspects of privacy and what measures individuals could take to safeguard themselves in subsequent posts. Thank you for your input and look forward to continued feedback!

  4. Shivangi
    An excellent post!! An eye opener indeed. Hope our netizens sit up and take notice.

  5. Taufiq Hail Ghilan

    So many people, including IT guys, are aware of trading personal info just to gain the service for free. The word “ free” does not indeed mean what it should mean, on the contrary it means submitting your privacy info for free. The term “free” means free for the end-user, but actually means money for these service providers, organizations and ads companies.
    One thing I would like to add is that all what is mentioned concerning the storage of personal data has policies in place which governments and organizations apply. The end-user has no way to gain access to these “free” services unless he accepts the usage agreement. These polices are made, and the user have no choice to say yes or no.
    Some governments have policies to store sms for 6 months, for security issues, some for years. I believe that majority of people do not know that, and if they know, they can do nothing to change the policies of their countries. At least, that is the case in the Middle East countries.
    One thing I would like to share with you which are the anti-virus programs. I am in the field of IT since the early 1990s and I noticed, among many of professionals, that if the end-user do not renew the subscription or extend it, his computer immediately became harmed by the same anti-virus programs which one day was protecting his/her PC!. Where is the user right to avoid such practices? I feel that there should be an international organization that has the authority to make laws which can protect the user of the internet, and impose taxes for these giants from reaping all fruits. Still so many people in the developing countries has no access to the internet, and poverty is killing thousands of people whom has the right to live and enjoy the digital world as any human-being.
    Your efforts are highly appreciated and keep going on to educate people.

    1. Hi Taufiq – very true. As we keep reiterating, there is no such thing as a ‘free lunch’. This concept is not easily grasped in the online context by a majority of people. Also, while the end user doesn’t really have a choice about accepting user agreements, our endeavour is to at least ensure that the user does it with her eyes open. Same with regard to government policies. Overall things are still evolving – and very rapidly – when it comes to laws, policies and governance. Meanwhile, our effort is to ensure that the average netizen remains aware and stays secure. Thank you for your encouraging words!

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