Steve Mair, Senior Cyber Security Consultant
It’s a fact of life these days that we constantly seem to have people giving out dire warnings about being careful what information you share online, who can overhear you giving out your credit card numbers etc. It seems like we’re being warned that there are ears everywhere.
Do you know what? There are.
But these constant messages of your impending doom could also have a negative effect, a sort of “it doesn’t matter what I do, the bad guys will get my data anyway” attitude. This sort of apathy and resignation could be a form of privacy fatigue, and is discussed in this excellent article.
It describes how you can tell if you’re suffering from privacy fatigue, and explains what the term means and is based on academic research, which I liked.
There are a couple of points to note about the article though: the sample was quite small – less than 400 people, and the demographic was quite narrow – only people in their 40s and early 50s.
Perhaps the biggest shortcoming in the article as far as I could see was that it didn’t talk about the “so what” aspect of what it had to say (but then it’s in a psychology publication, not a security one so that makes sense). What are the risks of sharing, and why is it important not to become fatigued?
I can still remember the days when mobile phones, smartphones, email, social media and computers didn’t exist. Back then, you wouldn’t dream of standing in the middle of the street and handing out your bank details including statements, or shouting out details of when you were going on holiday. You almost certainly wouldn’t go up to everyone you met and told them where you kept your chequebook and cheque guarantee card (told you I remember a long way back!). Would you have stood on one side of a wall and shouted over it, to whoever might have been listening, who you’re thinking of employing and how much you’re thinking of paying them, or details of a business proposal you’re writing?
I’m guessing that you would agree all of those would be pretty foolish things to do. But effectively, that’s what you’re doing when you drop your guard in respect of privacy.
If you don’t lock down your privacy settings on your social media applications, you’re making every aspect of your life visible to anyone else on the internet.
If you use the same password on multiple websites, you’re making it easier for the bad guys to get access to more of your life.
If you’re talking about confidential things, knowing who else is listening is really important.
Please don’t be complacent. Please be careful. Please don’t get privacy fatigue.