The almighty god of technological progress demands countless sacrifices.
We sacrificed our time at first; navigating at all times and everywhere in that immense cloud of information called the Internet, and even we stay in it through various apps that locate us and call us at any moment. Then, we sacrifice our economy, since pretending to belong to that revolutionary digital innate cream, which represents technological innovation, which also demands an extensive purification of diverse material goods, most of them replaceable in less than 6 months approximately; and last but not least, we immolate our own security using "free" services that keep absolutely everything about us, without knowing it, a priori.
But one of the most important things we sacrifice, (closely linked to the security aspect of course) is privacy, although being very honest, there is really very few things we can do to safeguard it nowadays. We all agreed to deliver it to whoever knows, with our eyes closed some time ago.
Privacy in the network, and in the world 2.0 does not exist.
As a small exercise, take the time to read any End User License Agreement, for example from a service provider, and when you have finished, basically if you accept an Internet service, you give full freedom to the "provider" over all your information, for the purposes of analysis and "mining". This blind acceptance is the starting point to define what privacy truly means in our digital times, and to make clear everything that we have already sacrificed / offered. Online advertising is the business of the 21st century, and for that to work, you must have access to a huge amount of data that we, the users, give to companies completely free of charge in exchange of nothing; in exchange for letting us upload our photos to their platforms to share with our friends and, with bad luck, with the rest of the world.
My private Twitter with 300 followers
Vulnerating privacy has, basically, two main purposes: to obtain data and obtain money. And many times the second one is a consequence of the first one: the data is obtained, either legally or illegally, to later trade with it. In the "legal" cases, thanks to the express consent of the users (as we pointed out), who in some situations have not read the conditions, the companies collect information and sell it to third companies to enlarge their databases and draw patterns of citizen’s behavior. In the "illegal" world there are more options. In some cases information is stolen to penetrate systems and steal money directly.
In a very particular case, very recently the father of a high school girl went to make a quite energetic claim, directly to the HQ in Mexico City, of a well-known department store. The father reproached them why they were filling his daughter's laptop screen with pop-ups and ads with medication for people addicted to drugs, alcohol or tobacco, along with advertisements about rehabilitation therapies and other treatments.
Were they telling their daughter directly that she was an addict? As the reader can imagine from what we have already written, the store was offering "alternatives" to the searches made by the girl on her computer. She wanted to acquire drugs and alcohol online and the store, to improve sales, made a "data mining" on her (as well as on the millions of patterns we left on the Internet) in an attempt to identify her needs based on the schemes of search. This model of addicted person looking for drugs and alcohol, was totally consistent in addition, with the kind of person who would be trying to solve its addiction problems, of course. Then, the store database correlated her, with a high probability of being a drug addict / alcoholic by sending ads and pop ups, so she could "correct" her situation.
The father realized that his daughter was an addict in a very embarrassing condition.
Despite the harshness of the case, this is an example where privacy has been diluted by technology. Thanks to the statistical models fed by data mining, it is possible to make highly accurate personal predictions, and obviously to know secret information about the person in question. You can provide countless unimaginable situations, to know the patterns that exist in a personalized way in a specific population. That is broadly what is known as Big Data and yes, as you may realize, it is a nightmare to protect privacy.
Although tacitly it is not required to execute "so advanced" sampling operations or stochastic observation algorithms, to violate privacy, let's see now the social networks; our weakest flank these days. In general, the average user feels safe having a little lock next to his profile that indicates the account is private.
Here are two topics:
1) If your account is private so that "only your friends see you", how do you have 300 or more followers in it? In reality, are all those people so intimate? Could you name all the people who follow you?
2) How do you know those people who follow you are not compromised or will not be compromised? Do they know what they do when they publish something of theirs or yours? Can you control it? It is enough that only one of these people is a "malicious insider" so that you are attacked completely, as we already made clear in the previous article.
As more secure as you feel on Facebook, no matter how isolated your account is, no matter how much you protect it, there will always be ways to violate your privacy and expose yourself to the public domain. You will never know who has your photos stored on a pendrive, who has usurped you, who has seen this wonderful picture that you like so much. Never.
Also with the arrival of IoT, came a lot of devices that can violate the privacy of any user. For example, the well-known intelligent robot that cleans many homes, the Roomba, stores information while performing household chores: basically, it creates plans of the house automatically to optimize the route and save battery. Until now, the owners of the brand have not used this information, but it seems they are already considering selling the collected data to third companies dedicated to manufacturing connected products for home, such as Google Home or Amazon Echo. These data would facilitate companies to have information on the type of housing, to improve their speakers. In addition, the robot can also store other data related to households, for example, if there are pets in these, in which rooms are the inhabitants or at what time it is usual for people to be at home. Do you think that a Roomba could not be the target of a cybercriminal?
Growing in an era without privacy
Internet has become part of the lives of many people, especially the youngest ones, to the point that maintaining a virtual profile in the main social networks is almost essential not to be outside of your closest circle.
Information that many people would find private or inappropriate, is constantly put into public spaces such as Facebook or Twitter. Personally thanks to Facebook, I have known of "close people" who upload photos of their ultrasounds, their medical exams, their individual treatments, and even their family dramas. That information is delivered to us without asking for it and while a person can post whatever they want, I can only see that decisions they have made in doing so are not correct. People never imagine how certain information can be used against them, to harm them, even if it is their "VIP group" of friends.
A delicate aspect that comes to mind, involves the governments and the associated justice agencies. Since it has become popular that many law enforcement agencies break into the Dark Net to hunt down potential child pornography sites, breaking encrypted servers or interrupting hidden communications, the privacy guarantees this dark network possessed, have already been compromised several times. Although I agree to completely destroy this kind of aberrant sites, the ease with which an agency can break into the Internet, is extremely alarming and could lead to another kind of actions, which we cannot fully visualize.
The Circle is a large internet company that has the most advanced technology in the world, and a more than dubious ethics. It's a social network, apparently, but it's much more than that. Who is not in "The Circle", or does not actively participate in it, is rejected by the rest of the society that does share every minute of their life in the network. Even the employees of the company itself - more than an office building resembles a prison - add points in the company's internal awards, and when providing personal information. Oh, but of course all "voluntarily."
And it is clear, the slogan of the company is precisely that privacy should not exist.
"Privacy is bad, secrets are lies."
For that reason, their objective is that all users, and in the future all the society, leave aside their privacy in pursuit of a world marked by “transparency”.
Fortunately The Circle is still a science fiction novel (or not?) by Dave Eggers and talks about the power of new technologies, surveillance, privacy of users on the Internet, the impact that lack of privacy and the repercussions for people who do not want to be part of that circle. In short, how a misused technology could turn the world into a nightmare.
The conclusion I came up with, in this article, is that privacy is transcendental, and we must fight for it. Ideally we should choose the level of privacy, which we want to maintain, even if it requires some extra cost, (which should not). In this sense, governments, the media and technology, must go hand in hand to achieve it and above all to lay a real foundation, where future generations know how to really consider what should be private, and what we can share with the world without fear of being hurt.
Does anyone doubt the importance of protecting our privacy?