Text by José Vallet
When I discuss about privacy issues with other people, I find out that many of them don’t understand why it does matter so much to me and why I am so careful with it in many fronts. For example, they do not understand why I make my life “so difficult” by reading terms of agreement and avoiding to use most (if not all) of the popular “free” applications and services available on the Internet today. They don’t understand either why I don’t use a modern smart phone. I believe that the main reason for this difference of attitudes is unawareness, e.g. regarding:
- What data can be and is being collected from us.
- What information it conveys about us as individuals.
- How that information can and is being used.
- And, ultimately, how this affects our societies and us as individuals, which is the real non-monetary price that we pay for using those non-transparent services and devices.
This blog post is not meant to convince you about the importance of privacy, but rather to invite you to think about it by yourself. It contains a proposition for a reflection, a reading and a post-reflection. It will not take long and I think it will be worth for you a few minutes of your time.
Imagine an average Internet user, let’s call him John, who expresses his opinions using tools provided by popular social media platforms, e.g. Facebook, and whose activity/presence on Internet is being tracked by this and other applications/tools developed by companies that collect users’ data. Please think about the following questions:
- How much information about his personality do you think that the “likes” that John does throughout Internet convey?
- How many “likes” are necessary to build up a detailed personality profile of John’s personality?
- How detailed the profile can be if it is built using data such as connections with friends, the pictures that he posts, what he reads, thinks and what his opinion is, and in general the fingerprint that he leaves on the Internet? Can this profile contain information about John that he does not know of himself?
- Can a personality profile built with that information be used to predict his behavior?
And can a computer do this in an automated, fast and efficient manner? Can these predictions be more accurate than what John believes of himself?
- What for could a for-profit company use a particular individual’s detailed personality profile? What if this company would have available a detailed profile of all the individuals of an entire country, or even of the whole world? Is that feasible at all?
- Lastly, do you think that you are clever and well informed enough as to be able to avoid being manipulated?
Now I kindly invite you to read this post and to find answer to some of the previous questions.
After the reading, I kindly invite you to think again about the previous questions, but now adding to the arsenal of data being collected the individuals’ position at all times with an accuracy of under a meter, indoors and outdoors. But please also think about what information your position carries about us as individuals.
Does privacy matter to you?