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Opinion: It’s Time to Get Serious About User Data

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By Andrew Bourne, Regional Manager, Africa, Zoho Corporation

Over the past few years, tech-savvy customers and younger, more dynamic, employees have forced businesses in all sectors to completely change their way of operating. But with that transformation has come an unprecedented threat in the shape of the harvesting and misuse of personal data by technology vendors.

For their part, customers expect every company they interact with to use technology in a way that makes their lives simpler and more efficient. After all, if they can change insurers or buy groceries with a few taps of their smartphone, why shouldn’t they be able to do the same when it comes to investing or getting property-buying advice?

Employees, meanwhile, expect to be able to interact with their companies in the same way they do with the products and services they themselves use as consumers.

But if organisations aren’t careful with the technology vendors they use, they may not only be putting their customers at risk, but also their own reputation and ultimately, their bottom line. As organisations evaluate their path forward, it is therefore critically important to step back and determine what they are giving up to rapidly stay ahead.

From a personal perspective, it is generally understood that using Google, Facebook, and Twitter comes with a compromise – people pay for these free services by allowing them to track their online behaviour constantly, giving up control of their data. They are, essentially, “surveillance companies”.

The majority of websites monitor customers, users, and prospective customers through cookies; small lines of code designed to track a visitor. Companies pay significant amounts to access the information these cookies collect, so they can target them with advertising. This happens secretly, and without an individual being aware their data has been packaged and distributed to other companies with ulterior motives. What we must recognise is that it happens in the business-to-business (B2B) world as well.

B2B companies allow surveillance companies to track their users while on their properties. Surveillance in the form of trackers can be found everywhere on B2B websites. Salesforce, SAP, WorkDay, NetSuite, and Slack, common applications in today’s professional environments, all employ surveillance tools that track things such as user browsing habits.

It’s not surprising that most Nigerians feel a massive disconnect between how their personal data should be treated and how it actually is. According to a survey by the Web Foundation, 97% of Nigerians view the treatment of their personal data as a major concern.

B2B companies use products and services from surveillance companies in exchange for their users’ data, but users are not informed about it. This practice happens on websites, and it happens on mobile devices. It is everywhere.

Data is priceless, and safeguarding it should be an organisation’s greatest responsibility. It’s important to challenge any company that collects and sells user data to stop adjunct surveillance to protect – and respect – customer privacy.

All organisations should ask if their technology vendor is running its products on a public cloud, where they can track you or client’s behaviour or data. Most public cloud companies also have ad-based business units, and as we know, ads and privacy don’t mix. In order to remove trackers from all ad-supported companies, have they developed tools internally? Where are the “Trojan horses” within the confines of their products?

It has been said that data has surpassed oil in value. For businesses who grow by exploiting consumer’s personal data, it’s gold dust. Sure, some things can be monetised; personal data should not be one of them.


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Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University.

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Join Inlaks Live TechTalk Edition on Hyosung’s Revolutionary MV 100 ATM Model

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Inlaks, the leading Information Technology Systems Integrator specialised in the deployment of highly scalable ICT Infrastructure solutions, will on Monday September 28, deploy the second edition of its virtual thought leadership segment called “TechTalk”.

Techtalk which was formerly a pre-recorded segment hosted on the organisations YouTube channel has now transitioned into a live virtual event across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The virtual edition kicked off in August 2020 with a segment on Financial Crime Mitigation, honing in on the superiority of Temenos Financial Crime Mitigation Solution with Emmanuel Orororo, Sales Manager, Financial Business, Inlaks.

The 2nd edition of Tech Talk promises to offer the same measure of insights as it dives into the world of Automated Teller Machines (ATM) with a focus on MoniValue 100, a revolutionary ATM solution by Hyosung TNS. The MoniValue 100 is especially adapted to the present times as it is a cardless, contactless and changeless solution.

Join this virtual event live by logging on to any of the social media pages below on Monday, 28th September 2020. YouTube: Inlaks, Facebook: InlaksNg, Twitter: Inlaks, Instagram: InlaksNg

Inlaks is a leading system integrator in Sub-Saharan Africa. The company partners with leading OEMs in the technology industry to provide world-class information technology solutions that exceed the needs of its customers.

Over the years, Inlaks has built a reputation as the foremost ICT and Infrastructure Solutions Provider, helping customers effectively seize new market and service opportunities.

With an impressive customer base that includes six Central Banks in West Africa, 18 of the 24 banks in Nigeria and other major customers in the West African region, Inlaks has become the dominant Information Technology Company in Africa.

Inlaks’ customers cut across various segments including Banking, Telecommunication, Oil/Gas, Power, Utilities and the Distribution sectors of the economy. For more information, please visit www.inlaks.com


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Millions of Cyber Attacks Launched on Nigeria, Others- Reports

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There were 3.8 million malware attacks and 16.8 million Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUA) detections over a 7-month period in Nigeria, according to Kaspersky security solutions.

Millions of Cyber Attacks Launched on Nigeria, Others- Reports

Elsewhere in South Africa, there were almost 10 million malware attacks and a staggering 43 million PUA detections, showing the growing desperation of the attacks.

The company reported on 28 million malware attacks in 2020 and 102 million detections of potentially unwanted programs (pornware, adware etc.) accounted for by the beginning of August 2020.

These numbers show that it’s not only the malware that attacks users but also the “grey zone” programmes that grow in popularity and disturb their experiences, while users might not even know it is there.

Potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) are programmes that are usually not considered to be malicious by themselves.

However, they are generally influencing user experience in a negative way. For instance, adware fills user device with ads; aggressive monetising software propagates unrequested paid offers; downloaders may download even more various applications on the device, sometimes malicious ones.

calculating interim results of threat landscape activity in African countries, Kaspersky researchers noticed that PUAs attack users almost four times more often than traditional malware.

They also eventually reach more users: for instance, while in South Africa, the malware would attack 415,000 users in 7-months of 2020, the figure for PUA would be 736,000.

“The reason why ‘grey zone’ software is growing in popularity is that it is harder to notice at first and that if the programme is detected, its creators won’t be considered to be cybercriminals. The problem with them is that users are not always aware they consented to the installation of such programmes on their device and that in some cases, such programmes are exploited or used as a disguise for malware downloads,” said Denis Parinov, a security researcher at Kaspersky.

By taking a closer look at PUA, it becomes apparent that they are not only more widespread but also more potent than traditional malware.

Evaluating results over the same 7-month period in Nigeria, there were 3.8 million malware attacks and 16.8 million PUA detections – which is four times as much.

Kenyan and South African threat landscapes have been more intense. In South Africa, there were almost 10 million malware attacks and a staggering 43 million PUA detections.

Kenyan users faced even more malware attacks – around 14 million, and 41 million PUA appearances, Kaspersky said.


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Tech Giants Strike Deal with Advertisers over Hate Speech

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Web giants including Facebook have struck a deal with advertisers on how to identify harmful content such as hate speech, after an impasse over the issue which led to boycotts of the platform.

Tech Giants Strike Deal with Advertisers over Hate Speech

The agreement — which also included Twitter and YouTube — laid out for the first time a common set of definitions for hateful statements online.

In July, hundreds of advertisers including big-name consumer brands suspended advertising with Facebook as part of the #StopHateForProfit campaign, saying the social-media titan should do more to stamp out hatred and misinformation on its platform.

And earlier this month a group of celebrities — including Kim Kardashian, Leonardo DiCaprio and Katy Perry — stopped using Facebook and Instagram for 24 hours, to push a similar message.

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) said in a statement Wednesday: “Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, in collaboration with marketers and agencies through the Global Alliance for Responsible Media have agreed to adopt a common set of definitions for hate speech and other harmful content and to collaborate with a view to monitoring industry efforts to improve in this critical area.”

The alliance was founded by the WFA and includes other major trade bodies.

According to the WFA, key areas of agreement included applying the alliance’s common definitions of harmful content; developing reporting standards for such content; establishing independent oversight; and rolling out tools for keeping advertisements away from harmful content.

The WFA said that properly defining online hate speech would remove the current problem of different platforms using their own definitions, which it said made it difficult for companies to decide where to put their ads.

“As funders of the online ecosystem, advertisers have a critical role to play in driving positive change and we are pleased to have reached agreement with the platforms on an action plan and timeline in order to make the necessary improvements,” said Stephan Loerke, chief executive of the WFA.

Luis Di Como, executive vice-president of global media at Unilever, a major advertiser, sounded a note of cautious optimism.

He said: “The issues within the online ecosystem are complicated, and whilst change doesn’t happen overnight, today marks an important step in the right direction.”

Speaking in July, Facebook’s founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said he remained adamant that the company did not want hate speech on the social network.

On Wednesday, the company’s vice-president for global marketing solutions, Carolyn Everson, said the agreement gave all parties “a unified language to move forward on the fight against hate online.”

 


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