So, I bit the bullet this past week and bought a new mobile phone. I’m not going to tell you what kind. When setting it up, I tried to be mindful of the privacy implications associated with the process.
First, whatever consent they think they obtained from me, I am telling you it was not meaningful. I had to click on "agree" or "allow" about a hundred times. I’m a pretty privacy-conscious guy, but I was fatigued by the ordeal and thought about how we desperately need to reframe our paradigm in Canada in a way that moves away from consent being the all-mighty savior that allows organizations to do whatever they want with our information. After all, if I had clicked any differently, I’m quite positive my phone’s ability to work as it should would be hindered. However, with the structure we have in place now, it felt like I could have inadvertently given away my first born (sorry, Emily!) for the GPS to work.
Speaking of GPS, the new phone also heightened my awareness of how location data can be extremely sensitive. While I’ve gotten a kick out of viewing past location history, it struck me that this always-on function of our phones can really paint a detailed and intricate picture of our lives. I’ve started trying to figure out how I can curtail this without losing the functionality and convenience I want. It’s taking me some time. If you’ve figured it out, please let me know.
The thing about geolocation data is that it can be more sensitive than our web search history. The law is clear in Canada because of certain findings in this regard: If an organization is going to use your search history that involves the collection of sensitive personal information, it must warn you and obtain your express opt-in consent. I don’t think this is happening when it collects the fact that I might be at a psychologist’s, job interview or whatever.
Lastly, a function that does not work particularly well is the fingerprint reader on my phone. Maybe it’s just that I have oddly shaped thumbs, but it is constantly telling me that my thumb doesn’t match the one they have on file. Did I give up my biometric information for a convenience that is only there a quarter of the time?
Let’s hope that in the next few months our policy thinkers take note of how the world works today and that they come up with a new paradigm that actually protects our privacy. Surely, Canada can regain a leadership position in this industry by doing this well.
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