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Corporate Surveillance: Tracking Your Every Step

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In certain situations, corporate surveillance can lead to an invasion of one’s privacy. For years, large players like Google and Facebook have continued to amass the personal data of billions of internet users. Companies want to know everything about us, from relationship status to the state of our health.  

What’s more, certain organizations collect this information for the simple reason of accumulating mass profits. These public search engines, social media platforms, and e-commerce giants form what is known as Big Tech.  

Many of us think of corporate surveillance in simple terms – big corporations know what sites we visit online, and that’s it. When, in reality, the big issue with internet privacy is public search engines gathering all this data and creating an entire digital profile.

Imagine that: a profile encapsulating all our online actions. Moreover, your browsing history, like and sharing actions, and the unique cookies sites popping up upon entering the websites all go into forming a clear picture of who you are. That is, assuming you take no steps to protect your privacy.

With access to the internet, the world has become more open and interconnected than ever before. In this technological age, is the price of choice and knowledge equal to the possibility of crime? Let’s explore more.  

Corporate surveillance is alive and well. As COVID-19 pushed the world into an already inevitable way of conducting business, it is critical that those principals such as C-Suite and high-level travelers be cognizant and “like,” wisely. 

The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is no farther from the truth in contemporary society. One might not think much about documenting one’s travels with the click of a button and posting on his/her/their favorite social media site. 

However, this unknowingly provides external aggressors to strike and fuels potential insider threats from a disgruntled colleague (former or present). Therefore, play it safe because it is an open medium for extortion once it is out in cyberspace.

Matthew Porcelli, Security Manager, Harvard Protection Services, LLC.

Today’s Digital Tracking Game: Why It Matters?

In modern times, the scale and interconnectedness of corporate surveillance is a tangle of technical, economic, and social interactions. Data companies from numerous industries are emerging left, right, and center to share and trade the aforementioned online profiles with one another.

Facebook is a large player in the digital tracking game. Operating as a for-profit corporation, their priority lies in making money and with questionable heed for their users’ interest. That means every time you click the like button, you’re triggering a wide variety of hidden data-sharing mechanisms spread across other companies.

This sharing of personal data directly affects available choices. Not to mention how extensively digital tracking is used to both monitor and influence decisions. It almost seems like the fight for privacy is a losing game.

Moreover, last year saw a massive increase in attacks against company execs. Mostly, due to unprotected exposure over platforms like WhatsApp, Zoom, and social media apps, including LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. Attackers increasingly target social networks because people instinctively trust what they encounter on these channels. 

Social media is a double-edged sword. Many CPOs choose to work solo as freelancers, and media platforms help increase their networking and acquisition capability. Culturally, we know to be aware of phishing scheme emails. But a DM in an app? Hostile adversaries find sensitive information through “trusted” social media platforms also.

Another common indiscretion usually newer security operatives make is posting images of themselves and their client online. Or, revealing their exact whereabouts because of automatic tagging and failure to turn off geolocation tracking. To expose identifying information is not a joke in the world of executive protection.   

Day to Day Corporate Surveillance

A recent report in cracked labs paints a detailed picture of the day-to-day mechanics of personal data. Albeit similar to other articles on this topic of data and analytics, there is a flooding of technical words only privacy pros could grasp.

corporate_surveillance.

Let’s take a quick step back and unpack the mechanics of data and corporate surveillance in more practical terms.

To start with, a significant increase in surveillance occurs when companies gather large amounts of data relating to online and offline consumer behavior. Now, the mass of behavioral information, combined with personal and contextual data, forms a resource. One that helps with digital profiling 

In addition, the collected data helps entities or corporations market their services and generate advertising revenue. Not to mention, monitoring software eases both the gathering and analysis of such information.

The big issue here is who is using the software, and for what reason are they collecting the data? In the hands of malicious actors, such data can prove dangerous. Not to mention the cases of poorly trained security operatives easily exploited through digital profiling.

Whether they inadvertently expose information or knowingly flaunt their lifestyle, the fact is they’re a weak link putting their principal and company in danger. Knowledge is equal to the possibility of crime, and an agent needs to take active steps to protect themselves and their principal.   

Corporate Surveillance and Your Right to Privacy

Business environments have had to evolve to protect vital assets and secure their premises. To do this, companies have a legal right and the capacity to keep tabs on their workers. That includes security personnel working in corporate environments who are there to protect the physical safety of all employees.  

Workplace monitoring is permitted and has been happening for years. Media studies report that businesses’ in-house IT departments monitor emails for flagged phrases, even though it’s subject to various constitutional provisions and laws.

Within the United States, both the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and (to some degree) the common-law protect against invasion of privacy. The ECPA directly controls the monitoring of technological devices in the work quarters.       

A recent Gartner report shows that a staggering 50% of large corporations monitor the content of worker emails and media accounts. In addition, according to an Accenture survey of C-suite executives, approximately 62% of businesses leverage new tools to collect data on their employees.

So, anytime a business has a legitimate reason to monitor oral and electronic communications, they can. But this is not limited to job-related communications. Corporations can arguably monitor work emails in transmission. Hence, loopholes that limit employer liability for methods of observation exist. 

Executive Protection in the Cloud

Organizations have turned to digital surveillance platforms as a way to replicate the office and enhance team communication and collaboration.

However, doing this has opened a largely unprotected threat landscape that security teams are in some ways struggling to get around. Little of this is breaking news when it comes to the expansion of corporate surveillance and its capabilities.

corporate surveillance

Increased monitoring is happening, only compared to before the pandemic, it’s happening at an increased rate. And programs like Sneak and ActivTrak give corporations the options of how they want to monitor workers’ online activity. For one thing, they’re able to: 

  • Screenshot employees’ screens,  
  • Track browsing history, and  
  • Use clap-tapping. 

Not only does this lead to the question of privacy, but the engagement with these collaborative and social media tools has expanded our attack surface. No doubt due to the shift to work from anywhere.  

The Takeaway

There seems to be little privacy in an age where data is routinely collected and stored. So much so that data breaches have become pretty commonplace.

With the amount of data that exists, digital profiling serves to find out everything about us. And by taking no precautions to protect our online privacy, we leave ourselves entirely exposed.

This especially goes for any security personnel required to protect themselves and their principal. As such, we recommend taking a look at some active steps to take to avoid entangling yourself in exposing situations.  

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