Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Value of Online Privacy and Digital Data

Today you are allowed freedom of speech in some measure online. You can say what you want and the worst case is that you get kicked off from Facebook, Twitter or the platform. This can be some form of interference but these are being controlled by private companies rather than governments. When it comes to trade, we can't do the same thing or interact with each other in the same way.

Bitcoin is free, well not exactly "that" free though the price is rising you are able to trade and interact without any restrictions. When you think about privacy, what comes to mind? What does liberty mean? It's freedom from permission. Living our lives in a way that we can experiment ourselves. We can engage, try things and fail at it. We are not watched by any third party and because of this, our mistakes don't haunt us. This rudimentary ability to act without someone's permission as long as you are not harming anyone is the foundation of our human rights.

This goes to the language of our 'private property'. Privacy is that thing that says you belong to you rather than society. As technology has evolved over the years, its downside is that it has been monitoring people at large scale. All these are happening around us, with our cell phones, devices connected to our houses printing out a permanent record of every private life. Once we do that our liberty stops being a natural state of thing. Back in the old village in the days, people will gossip about you and see how you go about your life. But it was very easy to get away with it. Now that there is a record of everything you create, your messages or every border you cross is being monitored. The Telcos, companies and governments have these data and their contract with us is that they will not read it unless the law permits it. That hasn't been the case for some time now.

Why does privacy matter?

In this digital age, it seems like no one has any privacy. Before Edward Snowden's revelations on surveillance in 2013, governments and private companies were comfortable, making decisions without involving the democratic process. Mass surveillance over the years has been operating unlawfully. NGOs and stakeholders across the globe have challenged it but there haven't been meaningful improvements. Without privacy, we have no power. The power of privacy allows us to come up with an original idea. It could be a good or a bad idea, it could get us ridiculed by our friends or society. Once we have that idea we can share it with people we do trust. This is the initial process before whatever idea that was shared becomes publicized. This is definitely progress to one's freedom and rights. The most important thing to remember about privacy is that it's yours. It's your information, your habits, patterns and your actions. Therefore you should want to protect it in any way possible.

What can be done to my digital data?

The reality is that our personal data holds real value, and most of us are willing to trade it for small rewards, such as ‘free’ wi-fi, without a second thought. In these instances, it’s a trade-off, as we give away information voluntarily to get something in return. We need to be totally aware of our digital data and how it can affect us. Our data holds so much value that we are unaware of. Social media are interactive internet-based applications, with user-generated contents such as text posts or comments, photos or videos which collectively creates our digital data. A complete data set on an individual can fetch you some money. Companies known as "data brokers" collect and maintain data on millions of people which they analyse, package and sell. Data brokers collect and sell this information to other companies for many reasons. There are so many technologies to read and sort out big data, we have machine learning deep learning, artificial intelligence and it is easy to do it.

The role of blockchain

Anyone who has worked in crypto-currency space basically blockchain (Bitcoin, Ethereum) on the institution side would know that these technologies are for the people rather than some group of people given the power. That is equivalent to admonishing and respecting an individual's rights. Bitcoin and other digital currencies may not solve the privacy issue entirely. The lack of total privacy could be an existential threat to Bitcoin, and its an extensional threat to crypto-currency. Your privacy doesn't really matter if you have nothing to hide. It's about something you protect and being free in society. Privacy is the only protection Blockchain has for its users (the people who engage in the ecosystem) to protect the data from changing. There are criminals who use Bitcoin like any other currency too, basically preying on society. Every technology is going to be abused but what we have to focus on is the frequency and the level of damage. There is this headache of how to mitigate this in a way the still writes respect to our privacy.

It's clear we are a generation dependent on our mobile devices, using them for activities that suits our needs.We spend so much time online. Locking the door to our homes or closing the curtains to the outside world comes naturally. But as we live more of our lives online and become increasingly dependent on our mobile and IoT devices, why do we give so little thought to our digital privacy?