Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:
QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?
Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.
Is smart phone tracking avoidable?
Well, in theory yes, but in practice it's difficult. Recently, a Catholic newsletter called The Pillar used cell phone metadata to out a priest as gay for having used the app Grindr online. And without data protection safeguards, people can be tracked and traced in ways that they are not aware of, but that do certainly infringe upon their rights and civil liberties.