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You’ve probably seen the headlines about Rory Cullinan recently. The RBS chairman – one of the highest earning bankers in the UK – is leaving his position just weeks after Snapchats his daughter posted on Instagram were published in The Sun newspaper.

With the premise of the image sharing app being that the sender’s pictures are quickly deleted, the incident has raised questions about Instagram’s security and more broadly about online privacy. So how does the landscape look at present, can we expect any privacy  when using the Internet?

Sacked over a Snapchat?

Firstly, more on the Cullinan family. In March, The Sun published a series of selfies Rory Cullinan sent to his 18 year old daughter Bridget whilst he was at work. The images were captioned with lines like, “Another friggin’ meeting x”.

Whilst most likely an innocent attempt to bond with his teenage daughter, the newspaper felt the messages were inappropriate of a man in a very senior role at a bank that was, in recent memory, bailed out with billions of pounds of tax payers money.

The pictures might never have surfaced, but Bridget took screenshots of the Snapchats and, on Father’s Day, posted an ill-fated tribute to her dad on Instagram, captioned, “Happy Father’s Day to the indisputable king of Snapchat” with the brilliant hashtag, #daddylikestoselfie.

Ironically, the incident came just weeks after Snapchat released a new social safety guide to its users, reminding them of the means recipients have of capturing and storing pictures the sender expects to expire.

It’s worth noting that official word on the Chairman’s redundancy suggests there was a disagreement about how best to implement strategy at the loss making bank. Nevertheless, the reports have got us thinking about online privacy.

A ‘privacy policy’ is not the same as privacy

Perhaps unknowingly, we bargain with our personal data when browsing the web, trading our personal information for services. Every click, tap or swipe becomes a collectable touch point, and whilst it may not seem like your Internet activity is worth tracking, the information is a treasure chest for advertisers. Data is a multi-million pound industry.

Not that this is necessarily a terrible thing; in theory if advertisers know more about you (your location, your interests etc.) they can target their campaigns, showing you more things you’re more likely to want.

Teens are an especially care-free demographic when it comes to data sharing. The rise of the vlogger and YouTube stars like Zoella, who have found fame and fortune by essentially ‘sharing’ their lives, have created a “you share, you win” attitude amongst the younger generations.

The problem is, often we don’t fully understand or even know that our data is being tracked. Most online services have a privacy policy, but that isn’t the same as those services protecting our privacy. Arguments about third party data access are ongoing, so what are some of the key aspects to be aware of?


Cookies are software used to track your browsing habits. Most websites will now notify you when they’re using them – though it’s a dialogue box that’s easy to disregard – and they can be disabled. You can control cookies in your Internet browser settings, they can be disabled completely or selectively enabled for certain websites.

Cloud storage

Whether you use a web based email system or store files on Google Drive, cloud storage is increasingly the norm in modern day IT. But it’s important to note that the files you store online aren’t protected in the same way they might be if they were saved on your desktop or personal memory stick.

Everything you upload belongs to the online service, rather than yourself, and the small print of those privacy policies often gives the company the right to access your files any way they see fit.

Location services

Location data is making it increasingly easy for your movements to be followed at all times. Your mobile phone is the main culprit, with location services enabled you can essentially be pin-pointed whenever and wherever you are.

Are you concerned about online privacy? Or are you happy to share your personal data with businesses in return for more targeted, relevant advertising? Share your thoughts in the comments section.