It feels like we have been debating about data privacy for decades now. The public continues to demand greater control and transparency over their personal data. At the same time, millions of people are sharing personal details on social media voluntarily. This has raised the question “is data privacy no longer possible?” Let’s uncover the facts together.
The Conduct of User Privacy
It all started with the shocking revelations made by Snowden in 2013. This long-running drama shined a light on how information about us ends up in unexpected places. The aftershocks of it were felt in America and other parts of the world. Yahoo, Apple, and Microsoft engaged in legal battles with the US government.
After this deception, the Equifax breach made the headlines. The identity information of about 146 million Americans was compromised. Followed by this breach was the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Unfortunately, many Facebook users were unaware their data was being collected.
The digital age is revolutionary no doubt, but it has encouraged people to overshare starting from their location, where they are dining in, shopping, living, what products they are using and more. Just recently, one of my friends gave a shout out to Charter for affordable Spectrum internet prices and great speed. Why is it that on one hand we are concerned about privacy and on the other, we are happy to overshare? It seems that people fail to understand that digital spies don’t have to work hard to create user profiles because of the speed at which they are eager to share so much of their lives.
Is Privacy Really Finished?
Louis Brandeis, a former Supreme Court Justice, defines privacy as the right to be left alone. But I believe privacy is hard to define. According to the above definition, we do want to be left alone so that we can hook up with the digital platforms the way we like. Researchers say that the only thing that can empower an individual to be careful about their data is when they take the time to reflect on it.
Nowadays, almost everything is in the hands of some third party, including data. This challenges our expectations of privacy. If personal/private information is in the hands of a third party, it is often deemed to have no privacy at all. This is true in case the government gets access to information such as your emails. Emails receive minimum protection under the law as once they are stored for 180 days or more. They are considered categorically available to the govt. authorities. This concept is also applied to commercial data and scrapping of information on public sites.
Privacy May Just Be an Illusion
Andreas Weigend, the former chief scientist who worked for Amazon says that soon, a time will come when privacy will become an illusion.
Even if you call yourself a privacy zealot, you don’t stand a chance. Data is being created as we breathe. It is hard to live without creating traces of data. From our credit cards, phones, the public transport systems we use to other activities we perform daily, all create new data. We don’t even have the time to know what’s being created about us.
At the same time, we don’t want companies to scoop all this data without our permission. Andreas believes it is time we embrace that we are creating tons of data in exchange for the products and services we use. Maybe it is time to redefine privacy.
Will There Be A Future With Less Data?
You must have observed that every positive move regarding privacy made by Google, Facebook, and other giant organizations was a result of some regulatory pressure.
Take American democracy for instance. In the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, it was the associations that pushed the bounds of liberty. The same was observed in the gay rights movement. Likewise, in the Labor Movement, it was the unions that did the work. Privacy advocates alone can’t do a thing. Unless there are associations to regulate privacy, we won’t have a secure future.
Indeed our data is being harvested, it’s not secure and criminals can get access to it whenever they way. The defense of privacy is our only savior.