We Are Under Constant Surveillance Through Our Phones: Sridhar Vembu

Adjunct surveillance is sort of an ambient surveillance which is essentially going on every time

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Today, with the increased availability of data and the digitization of data, user’s privacy is at stake and to address this issue Sridhar Vembu, founder and CEO, Zoho Corp, delved into privacy of data and democratization of data.

Adjunct surveillance is sort of an ambient surveillance which is essentially going on every time even when we don’t think that we are being watched upon, said Vembu while speaking at Entrepreneur India’s Tech and Innovation Summit 2021.

Facebook, Google or Twitter and even in B2B companies, there is now surveillance going on plus there is data being recorded. He said that our cellphone knows who you are calling and this is the by-product (which is invasion of privacy) of using the technology.

Apart from this, the data, usage data or click-stream data can also be traded around. He talked about the major issue which we often face in our daily life is that websites such as Facebook or Twitter gather our personal data from other websites and tools, and that data is then funneled and usually we think that Facebook or Google don’t have access to these websites. That is where we are wrong because often they do have access of these websites. Moreover, some third-party apps also have access to our personal data.

Vembu cited some examples of the data being accessed by the companies; like a WSJ article which revealed that now Google has access to patient’s medical and health data. Another example he gave was a Bloomberg article which reports that how Google has found the perfect way to link online ads to store purchases.

And, to everyone’s surprise services that we daily use like free emoji and sticker packs are also collecting data and these kind of deals of collecting the data are done without user’s permission and without any kind of regulatory oversight, said Vembu.

“We as a user have no control over these things,” pointed Vembu.

This is something which is not only goes on free consumer level but it also goes on B2B level and that is something that we are familiar with, he illustrated with an example like if you go to a mobile app or a Web app, they subtly track your activities plus the third-party apps also do the same.

The mobile apps which we use, want the behavioral data and all this data provides 360 degree surveillance; apart from all of this they store data like the phone which you are using, from where you are accessing your device that is the geographical location, which apps you have been using and so forth.

The motive behind doing all this that they can tell the ad companies or the advertiser so that they can target your ads or show you the specific ads related to your profile and ultimately the prices of the ads which they are showing you can get higher, said Vembu.

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