Friday, October 16, 2015

The death of privacy

Data deluge is increasing. We are capturing more and more information about different people day by day. For example, Google collects all the search information of a person using their search engine. So whatever search you have given in the past, is in Google servers. Whatever you have posted on Facebook is also available. Daily your online profile is getting created better and better. Your online identity is getting bigger than your physical identity. Some companies are trying to build a unique profile of individuals across various channels. This is called MDM (Master Data Management). You may be using different apps and websites to transact. All this is being captured and your unique identity is emerging in the virtual world.

Slowly and steadily, you are losing your privacy. The opt-out feature of services is getting depleted. Anybody who can scour through the millions of channels available out there, can build your identity. Companies claim that they are collecting all these information for your own good. For instance, targeted ads, analytics etc. But are we really safe in these companies / governments hands ? In India, about 80% of the population have undergone biometrics (iris scan and fingerprint) identification to get a unique number called Aadhar number. This document is supposedly for all people who can for instance open a bank account, transfer money and so on. The question that begs attention is that, is this data safe in governments hands ?

What if the server’s got hacked and our identity is in the wrong hands ? The late millennial and the 21st century born people, are facing another dilemma. For them, the network is a given. They engage by going to various websites and running apps daily without much thinking about what is happening behind the scenes. Today’s parents have to advise their children about privacy and security at an early age. Forget about birds and bees explanation. So much of information about us is available online in God knows which all servers. I recently met a person, who I did research about and told him his entire story. He was surprised as he said that he is not active in social media. I told him where I got the information and he told me that he never put his profile there. He was both perplexed and furious.

Everyone – your government, your groups, the companies and others are trying to collect  as much information about you as possible. The cloud is making it more accessible. The future is a mixed bag of predictions. If you are living in a democracy, more and more regulatory laws will come into effect. These may not be perfect, but they will improve over time. If you are living in a autocracy or monarchy, the government may subjugate you further, by having your private data. Think about Wiki-Leaks, when one person or a group exposes data to the world. Think of the recent hacks on Ashley-Madison (affairs website for married people). It can cause so much embarrassment. In the future there may be insurances for protecting you and your family’s data online.

We are sitting on a ticking clock. Only time will tell, if all that technology is enabling, is for the wellbeing of mankind. This is the classic tale of good and bad. I have a feeling that says good will win, because there is a basic premise : All good things are permanent and all bad things are temporary. Data permanence may turn out to be a boon than bane.



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