This question must be asked, but sadly nobody is asking..
If something is free for you, it’s probably because you are the product.
In a world where we fight war in the name of democracy and criticise China for being communist, isn’t it the time to make the greatest invention to mankind- “Internet” democratic?
It may sound absurd but let me clarify.
we create tonnes of data and algorithms knowingly or unknowingly. we disclose our everyday choices and “likes” to the big data companies. It can be by travelling in Uber, using GPS in cars, shopping on Flipkart, posting pics on Instagram, writing emails, liking pages and joining groups on Facebook or even when reading a simple news item.
The big data companies store data and by using modern data mining techniques study our behavioural pattern and by artificial intelligence techniques they predict our future behaviour and choices.
For example, try opening any e-commerce website and select any product, and close the website. we think we are done with it, but the moment we open Facebook or any other social media platform we see the exact/related product in advertisements. we can’t do anything against it. So, in fact the data created by us is sold back to us.
Taking another example, If we travel using Gps, the moment we enter destination we are shown ads by uber, hotel booking etc, that means the data generated by us is shared to all other companies without our consent. The whole idea of social media, YouTube and other networking websites is based on this principle where consumers create data and then the same data is sold to the consumers in different ways.
Till now it sounds Ok. It feels as if there’s nothing wrong if they use our data but let me clarify further.
1. When we make a choice on social media (like liking a page, reading some news items or supporting some cause or even viewing a video), next time we are shown exactly the same type of content and we are not even shown the alternative facts or the other side of the story. If we do this for a week, then we are shown exactly the things we like and admire or believe. If we click on a news showing a community in bad reputation then the same type of news floods in our news feed and day by day hatred develops against a certain community. we stop checking facts and start blindly believing whatever is shown to us. In the world where news spreads so fast , this can have very bad implications in near future days.
2. Many terrorist organisations also use messaging services like WhatsApp because it says end to end inscription. There had been cases when government agencies asked companies to share data regarding such accounts, companies simply rejected citing right to privacy or company privacy policies for customers. So, it is a big worrisome situation in which the big data companies even undermine the security of a country and do arm twisting in the name of privacy.
3. e-commerce websites which don’t make profit sell our data to big data companies just for minimising their losses. There was a case of Jabong selling 10 years of customer data for a hefty sum to some big data company just to recover losses.
4. There was recently a case filed against snapchat for storing photos even though they claim they don’t. we all know what can happen if snapchat photos are disclosed.
5. There has been cases in which many porn websites blackmailed its customers to pay hefty amounts otherwise they will disclose their identity and videos to family members.
6. When a big data company like Facebook buys another company like WhatsApp or Instagram, their data also become automatically formers, even though we agreed to different privacy policies for different companies. we can’t simply trust, as later the websites are integrated for better use. So if snapchat and WhatsApp data is used by Facebook to make our news feed “better” we can’t do anything about it even though we used different platforms for different purposes.
7. There had been news of mass surveillance using these companies
8. If we don’t have full control of our data then, it may impact someone’s personal life in future. For example, what if you had past relationship with someone and you ended relationship and now have a new successful married life. Even though you deleted all your past photos on google drive and was assured that data is completely deleted. but some years later data leak happens and your photos too appears on internet. Google being such a big company will simple say sorry to its customers and may be pay some fine to US government, but it will ruin lives of millions of people . So not having control on your data can have bigger implications than we can imagine.
9. Even elections can be rigged by mass flooding of data in favour of certain party. Even if it is fake news, there is no provision to take action against it.
There are thousands of examples to show the misuse of data we generate and how our past data can haunt us in future.
In democratic internet, consumer must have “the right to their data”. If they delete their account, their past history must be deleted. without the consent of consumer his/her account details, past logs, travelling routes, consumption behaviour, location etc should not be shared with anyone.
Companies should not be in a position to arm twist the government according to their rules. It is the country which should come first, not the privacy of customer.
The more you think on this topic more you realise that in future whoever controls the data controls the world.