Why You Should Care About Privacy: You Are Being Turned into Big Data — A Statistic to be Manipulated

Privacy is something the United States was founded on. Our forefathers fought to reserve the private right to live how free men deemed fit. Without a government thousands of miles away telling them what they can, and can't, do. They set up a government with three branches: The Legislative, Judicial, and Executive. To my knowledge, there isn't a fourth official branch called, "Surveillance." 

Privacy is a right of freedom. A right of freedom is to have privacy.

According to the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), "New technologies have given governments unprecedented means to access personal information. In order to ensure all people can seek information and express themselves freely, there must be reasonable checks and balances on governments' ability to access, collect, and store individuals' data. Both security and freedom can be protected, but only through balanced laws that uphold human rights."

If you ask people about Internet privacy, many believe the sentiment, "I'm not doing anything wrong, so why should I care?"

You should care because you are being turned into a statistic. Your data is turning you into Big Data. You are ceasing to be human, and are becoming a data point in a spreadsheet. A small part of the whole.  Something to be manipulated and controlled by the Government, and popular services like: Facebook, Google, Apple, and Spotify. 

In his essay, The Value of Privacy, security expert Bruce Schneier says, "Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we're doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance." Two proverbs found by Schneier in his article support this idea perfectly: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? — (Who watches the watchers?) & "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Play a game of logicality with me. Marketers use data to make more educated decisions on how to effect consumer buying behavior, correct? With this known fact, think of how data can be used to effect an outcome in different ways. 

The Government can use data to sway public opinion. Facebook can use data to unlock the gates for certain posts to make it into our news feeds. Google can target specific ads to our search queries, and control what makes it to the top of it's search pages. 

"Big Data is generally defined as the rapid accumulation and compiling of massive amounts of information that is being exchanged over digital communication systems. The data is large and cannot be handled by conventional computer processors, and are instead stored on large server-system databases. This information is assessed by analytic scientists using software programs; which paraphrase this information into multi-layered user trends and demographics."

Take five minutes to think of ways you could use the examples below to abuse a relationship you are in - business or personal - if you had access to all pertinent information. Then, take five minutes to think of ways the Government, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Spotify can abuse their relationships with citizens, and consumers. Their Big Data = You and I.

Big Data provides the Government and companies with the ability to:

  • Infer detailed psycho-demographic profiles of internet users, even if they were not directly expressed or indicated by users.[8]
  • Inspect product availability and optimize prices for maximum profit while clearing inventory.
  • Swiftly reconfigure risk portfolios in minutes and understand future opportunities to mitigate risk.
  • Mine customer data for insight, and create advertising strategies for customer acquisition and retention.
  • Identify customers who matter the most.
  • Create retail coupons based on a proportional scale to how much the customer has spent, to ensure a higher redemption rate.
  • Send tailored recommendations to mobile devices at just the right time, while customers are in the right location to take advantage of offers.
  • Analyze data from social media to detect new market trends and changes in demand.
  • Use clickstream analysis and data mining to detect fraudulent behavior.
  • Determine root causes of failures, issues and defects by investigating user sessions, network logs and machine sensors.