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Published on September 30th, 2018 | by Sunit Nandi

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Is Personal Privacy Fading While Big Data Thrives?

At this point, it seems like a new headline regarding the erasure of individual privacy gets released. Lawmakers are starting to sound like characters out of a George Orwell novel while major corporate power brokers regularly break promises about not spying on those who use their services. People are increasingly reduced to simple metrics on a big data map.

Cloud server operators carefully curate the data points they collect so they can figure out the best way to market it. Some companies sell it to other firms for advertising purposes. Others use it to fine-tune their own business practices. In any case, big data collection agencies are at the heart of the issue.

Data Collection is a Slow Bleeding

Organizations might be interested in where a data point spends its weekend. Another might want to know what kind of shoes a data point wears. Netizens weren’t reduced to this overnight, however. Data collection has been a slow bleeding that’s snowballed over time.

Governments have monitored their people for a long time, but theorists didn’t conceptualize big data collection until the 1990s or so. Core principles and concepts related to big data agencies change constantly as these organizations struggle to enter digital adulthood.

These concepts stand in stark contrast to what consumers expect. Non-consensual data collection is considered a breach of privacy by most. Some might even say it’s a form of digital stalking. Big data companies have a different phrase to describe it.

They’ve elected to instead call it a multi-billion dollar industry.

Big Data Brings With it Big Problems

Computer analysts have called the maintenance of big data a balancing act. Consumer advocates are fighting for privacy at the same time that increasingly large sums of money are thrown into the mix. Automated data sorting is making this issue all the more complex.

While artificial intelligence (AI) has brought countless benefits to the world of computer science, the fact that AI subroutines can sort data so quickly and accurately is rather concerning. AI modules can operate without any form of human oversight. In many businesses, these programs are given totally free reign to do as they please in a struggle to stay competitive against rivals who have been using this kind of technology for years.

Ad services rather than governmental policies have become the major battleground when it comes to data collection on a massive level. Commercial data research tools have become a way for organizations to quickly understand their user base rather than something employed by fringe companies fighting to stay relevant in niche markets. Even some companies dedicated to open-source products are starting to collect information about their users.

Online purchases, browsing preferences and website usage can be used to predict almost anything a consumer might want to buy. Throw mobile app history into the list and its even easier to put together a profile that would accurately depict someone’s buying habits. While this might be a marketing guru’s dream, it’s a nightmare for netizens.

Social networking groups have recently been dealing with several major public leaks where information collected about their users made it out on the public web. Lawmakers are now struggling to catch up with these kinds of concerns. Some say that the concept of being an individual is quickly going by the wayside.

Possible Privacy Solutions

On a personal level, privacy can be assured by users who are willing to take additional steps to protect themselves. Virtual private networks, secure browsers and proper firewalls are among the most basic tools people have to guard against being reduced to mere data points. Unfortunately, there are some services designed to do almost nothing but collect information on their users.

Closing accounts related to firms that fall into this category might be the only way to protect against them stealing information. Transparency on behalf of online services is extremely important, but unfortunately many companies don’t yet have a business plan that makes transparency possible. If a company refuses to tell you how your data is being used, then it’s safe to assume they’re using it in a way you wouldn’t approve of.

Keep in mind that many companies that offer free online services generate revenue by selling data they collect from you. Social networking sites and email providers are often able to give you free access because they’re learning interesting tidbits about your habits that they can then pass to their advertising partners. Consider the issue of cloud storage as well.

Cloud companies often give users a certain amount of free storage, but they’re not exactly forthcoming about whether or not they read documents stored on their services. Industrial and educational think tanks are continuing to comment on these issues as well as how ineffectual laws regarding data privacy are. This makes it rather difficult to have much faith in the status quo.

While it might be more realistic to push for better privacy in the future rather than the here and now, little is lost until consumers completely give up the fight. There’s at least some new legislation on the horizon that could help. Consumers who make sure to regulate their own activities also send a big message to companies that they won’t stand for that kind of intrusive behavior.

In many cases, though, people don’t want to have to make any sacrifices because they’ve grown accustomed to the services they use. Many netizens have also been somewhat reluctant to use important mitigations techniques like VPN-enabled browsers.

Online Privacy in the Near Future

No one should have to feel that corporations and governmental agencies are compiling folders that contain all of their darkest secrets. They also shouldn’t have to fear a data breach in the future making them public knowledge. Change is going to take time, but consumers do have the ability to demand it now. Until people are willing to make these demands and give up access to the worst offending online services, however, they may as well be handing out the details of their personal life to everyone they meet on the bus.

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About the Author

I'm the leader of Techno FAQ. Also an engineering college student with immense interest in science and technology. Other interests include literature, coin collecting, gardening and photography. Always wish to live life like there's no tomorrow.



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