Jan 28, 2021

Why Data Privacy should concern us all?

Today is data privacy day

While it is excellent that there is a day assigned in the calendar to mark the importance of data privacy, for the vast majority of people, the day will pass without any awareness of the day and even less understanding why data privacy should concern everyone on the planet.

As technology embeds into our everyday lives and the pace of change invokes the feeling of being caught in a Tsunami of conflicting information, should we care if somebody is tracking and storing our information?  

In the digital world, everything we do leaves an imprint. Conventionally, we have thought of these imprints as clicks, keyboard strokes, or swipes. However, voice, emotions, facial expressions, and movement also provide profound signals to how we think, feel and act. Those imprints are highly valuable to brands, governments, and even political campaigns. By Interpreting this data through their algorithms, they can recognise behavioural patterns and predict our future actions.

Do you realise that almost everything you do online is tracked and traced, packaged, and sold to the highest bidder?  

The ads you see when browsing on the web or scrolling your social feeds are specifically for you, based on an algorithm built on your past behaviour that predicts you will likely react to the advertising content. Your previous reading habits define the news you consume, how long you viewed, did you share or comment, all to get you to dwell on the story long enough to get an ad in front of you.  

Data Privacy should be regarded as a human right, just as physical privacy is. Some governments have already enshrined it in their laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union. California, India, Singapore, and Japan have followed suit, with much more planning similar legislation soon.  

If you look at companies that have been fined for misusing your data, you would be shocked at how detailed the traded information is.  

Last week, the U.S. government settled with a women’s health app that shared information about users’ periods, pregnancies, and childbirths with Google and Facebook. A photo-storage app also settled claims that it used people’s images to build a facial recognition system.

I bet that very few users intentionally gave those companies permission to track and use their data in these ways.  

These companies will claim they explained how it would use the data in their terms and condition, so did nothing wrong. Hiding behind the small print is what allows companies to continue with these dubious practices. A user would require 30 hours to read the 900 pages of user terms and conditions of the 33 apps typically found on a Norwegian smartphone (Source: The Norwegian Readathon). Who has the time or the inclination to do that?

How do we change it?

The first step is to look for transparency from the company collecting your data on how they will use it. If it’s not immediately apparent, ask them to clarify in writing. If you are still not satisfied, look for an alternative. The companies that establish trust upfront and treat consumers fairly when collecting and using data will ultimately prosper in this ever-changing digital world.

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