Trusting digital giants with information they are collecting about you is a poor idea. After all, these are the same firms who don't even tell you what all they collect. And actually ignore you completely when it comes to deleting your records
Sometime yesterday, a thread ( a long series of tweets around a topic) on Twitter went viral. Written by Dylan Curran for The Guardian, a newspaper in UK, the article did a deep dive into the many ways Facebook and Google track your life on digital media and beyond.
People were rightfully shocked, because the extent of tracking and spying is clearly way beyond what most people were aware of, or expected to see. Coming at a time when the government to wants to join the game seemingly by the foolish ramming of Aadhaar down everyone's throats, it's a real eye-opener to see just why everyone wants to know you so well.
Perhaps nothing was more shocking and disappointing than the discovery that even the data you delete from your own device never actually goes away, being retained by these internet giants for further mapping of your life, personality and anything they can possibly profit from later on.
For readers in India, there is a parallel with the shenanigans we are seeing in our banking system today. Even as PSU banks (the government) have been proven to be an idea beyond its sell-by date, so-called professional banks have fared no better when it comes to performance and deviant behaviour. Leaving just the strong, owner managed financial institutions that have survived to show strong results in the financial sector. Because these owner led banks and institutions are aware that loss of confidence can lead to permanent closure.Clearly, when it comes to data, we have a somewhat similar challenge to figure out who to trust.
With machine learning algorithms improving by the day, readers will be amazed to know the extent of mapping that is already possible today. From the state of your mind right now, to the things you plan to buy, to even your sexual orientation, political beliefs and much more, everything is possible to predict with a degree of accuracy today, given enough data.
Which also explains why the big three - Facebook, Google and Amazon, and a whole host of smaller apps keep asking for permissions which barely make sense or actually, don't. Right up to and including the prime minister's own app.
So what can you do about this? Quite frankly, not much, as far as your individual data is concerned. For when you started using these 'free' services, you effectively signed off your right to protest, or protest too loudly, in any case, considering how deeply intertwined they are in our lives today. Ditto with Aadhaar, where eventually, the government will always use its monopoly on power and distribution of benefits, however much your right to them to get its own way.
But you will certainly do well to support, loudly or otherwise, moves to control this excessive data harvesting. More needs to be done, and will hopefully be done soon, especially with regards to how long data can be stored, stringent fines for data misuse, and protecting the right to privacy.
Fools out there will still tell you that the compromise has been worth it when it comes to these firms, for the services we get, or believing the fluff these companies throw around about their good intentions and what not. But make no mistake, driven as they are by a simple motive to grow and make more profits, individual rights will be repeatedly trampled, and people will get really hurt if something is not done now.
Users need to develop a basic respect for their own privacy, and why that matters. There is much good in the digital world, and we are hopeful that individuals will find a way to share best practices to combat this new effort at data slavery. Until then, take your pick of leading a saints life online, following #deletefacebook, questioning every effort to collect your information or all of these.
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