You are the product

As I pen this column in mid-January, experts are still uncovering the extent of the damage caused by the Solarwinds breach, aka SUNBURST, discovered last December. Solarwinds's tool is used by many businesses and government agencies, thus the implications of this breach can be profound. 

When a breach affects business and/or government systems, ultimately consumers are affected since these organizations hold our PII (Personally Identifiable Information) that, in nefarious actors' possession, can lead to all sorts of trouble. Even on our own devices such as computers, smartphones or tablets, protecting PII is of utmost importance.

The currently trending digital-world news, of the barely two-weeks-old 2021, was sparked by Facebook, the owner of the popular messaging app "WhatsApp." WhatsApp users began a mass exodus to more privacy-focused messaging services like "Signal" and "Telegram" when Facebook announced its intent to modify WhatsApp's privacy policy so it can share user data with Facebook.

You've probably heard the term "you are the product." The context is in regard to our usage of free services or products such as email, search engine, social media like the aforementioned Facebook, etc. Although not likely to be presented in an easy-to-comprehend sentence like "you can use our apps for free while we collect and sell your data," it is surely in the mile-long privacy policy and/or terms of use that most no one cares to read.

So it was a breath of fresh air when Apple introduced an easy-to-comprehend feature in their App Store where users can scroll down to the "App Privacy" section to understand what data, if any, the app you are considering to download collects. Sure, Apple and their handheld device oligopoly-counterpart Google should've done this from the get go but the adage "better late than never" is applicable.  

As always, we will soon revisit "Internet Street Smarts" in a future column so we can explore ways to minimize being victimized in the digital world.

Do you like to play Solitaire but without the distraction of ads or paying to remove the ads? Do you have an older device? Does it make you feel better knowing it doesn't collect any information – zilch, nada, zip? It is possible to stumble upon an app that does not collect any information in exchange for your usage. 

If you answered yes, give "Classic Solitaire Klondike," available in both the Play Store ( and App Store ( for Android-based smartphones/tablets and iPhone/iPad, respectively, a try. Hint: if you visit this column on with your browser, you'll be able to just click the respective store link for your device instead of typing it.

This caught my eye when the developer wrote "Our parents play the game and they are not young. So we tried to make elements bigger and UI simpler without a bunch of text." No data collection and senior friendly … what are you waiting for?

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation

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Volume 13, Issue 2, Posted 9:56 AM, 01.19.2021