Facebook’s trafficking of personal data to firms like Cambridge analytica has been swirling in the news over the past few weeks. So now is an appropriate time to talk about my thoughts on data privacy, and how the outrage against Facebook and their data trafficking is just the tip of the iceberg in the data privacy space.
The issue of data privacy is going to get worse, much worse. The decrease of storage costs, and the increase of use in massive data farms like social networks, search engines, and online shopping. As well as the tremendous advancements in machine learning and data analytics. All of this has led to companies investing massively into big data. Making it easier to market and customize to the individual.
Once our data has been collected it is then organized, analyzed, used for the companies purpose and finally sold or shared with another company (as we have recently seen in the news). That company then processes the data and resells it. This process happens over and over. Once our data goes on the internet it is next to impossible to pull it back out.
Another factor that needs to be examined is how we as consumers willingly give up this data in the attempt to make our lives easier and more intuitive. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in IOT (Internet of Things) devices like our Phones, Google Homes, Alexas, Nests, etc. We willingly give up massive amounts of our personal lives like product preferences, schedule, location, hobbies etc., because we want our IOT devices to mold themselves into our lives and to our preferences. So, we can get spot-on news feeds, recommendations, reminders, Temperatures and more.
There is an inverse relationship between functionality/customizability and privacy. The more private we want to be, the less intuitive our online lives become. So, we must be selective in who we are willing to give data to, and we must be aware of what those companies data policies are. Most well-known sites like Google and Facebook have an option to see what data they collect from you and how it is being used. The issue comes when data is leaked, stolen or mishandled, this is not our fault. It comes with weak security practices and the overall porous nature of the internet.
The way I see it, personal privacy and identity will become obsolete. Now before you go grab your tinfoil hat, you must look at how the eventual benefits may far outweigh the downsides. Healthcare will become more personalized and effective. People’s behavior can be analyzed to find out things we never knew about themselves. We could predict from people’s behavior if they are at risk of causing harm to themselves or others to hopefully stop it before it occurs. The list goes on and on, and the possibilities are unimaginable.
However, we must face to fact that we will eventually have to find a new way to authenticate that a person really is who they say they are. Since as we have seen recently seen and seemingly thrown to the wayside, our current way of authentication (social security numbers) have been breached and are likely no longer effective. However, we must still hold these goliath companies responsible for misuse of consumer data. Just because privacy will eventually slip away, doesn’t mean we need to open the floodgates.
The issue of data privacy is going to get worse. The increase in big data and analytics, and the resale of that data perpetually to different firms. As wells as ourselves freely giving up this data so we can make our lives more intuitive. All that causes our data to permeate so far into the internet that there is no way to pull it back out. However, we must also realize that this practice will NOT stop, so we must look at how this can benefit us and what we now must do to protect and authenticate ourselves.
“Data Leak” image provided by: Bluecoat