Data Collected And Sold By Tech Giants, Are we Powerless Over this?
Today no matter what we do, text, Google something, talk to a friend on FaceBook, post a picture on Pinterest, or maybe send a quick message on Twitter, everything we look at, search for, text or share is collected, categorized, then data is passed to interested parties. Has it always been this way, is there any way to pull back some of this intrusion on our privacy, and what can we do about this?
The future is not what we thought it would be.
I remember when in elementary school in the 1970’s at school they showed us a film (many of the younger kids have never seen one), in this film they laid open what they thought was a window to the future, but what we have today is so much different then what they showed way back then.
In this film, they had everything computerized, but it was not in a way that computers are today, the internet, connectivity was not even imagined, the information age we are in, this was nothing like it was seen back then. In the video they had self-driving cars, robots in the kitchen that prepared food, did the dishes, took care of your comforts of home, I was so amazed by it, at a young age of 12 I knew for sure I could not wait for the future, but now that I am an adult the future I saw then, and the one I see now are not very much alike.
I know, self-driving cars are still not commonplace, there sure is not a robot in my kitchen, and I can attest, there is no robot cleaning my house or taking care of my comforts, but there is a window to the world on my desk, there is another on my TV, my tablet, and my cell phone, even one in my car.
On one of these devices, my computer, I decided to watch the movie called The Circle, I will admit, this show made me very uncomfortable, in the show the character said that knowledge not shared is basically stolen, it is the right of all people to share in that knowledge, but is it?
I started to think about this, was this knowledge I have the right of all to have? Of course it isn’t, nor is knowledge a right, it like all else in life has to be earned, unearned knowledge can be abused, for the trials and wisdom gone through to acquire that knowledge brings with it wisdom, without this the pursuit of knowledge can very quickly be turned into a play of power, used to control, not to necessarily set one free.
We had seen the outrage over YouTube over President Trump having access to data, although I do find the faux outrage somewhat hypocritical, the same people screaming now were heaping praise on Obama when he did the same thing. But regardless of who has done this, is it a good thing to have all this information out about us? And is privacy a bad thing, is there a reason that some secrets are held, and should these be laid open to all? Further, think of the blackmail, the pressure that can be applied to people if you know all.
But there is more, who is the gatekeeper of this? Do we trust tech companies that are mostly concerned with profits or others that hold a political view, do we think they should have this access? We have already seen the beginning of this, algorithms from companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and others that feel any political view that differs from their own should be silenced. We already are seeing this; we had the shooter in YouTube HQ for this reason, they had devalued her video’s because they did not meet what they saw as politically acceptable.
As long as we are looking into this rabbit hole, and I don’t find this a question any longer of if, more one of when, what about when Insurance companies can get hold of every bit of information about your life, how do you get insured? And what about future employers, if you are anything like me, there were indiscretions in my youth, I want to be forgotten, chalked up to the stupidity of adolescence, but do you want this to be out in the open, for your job to know about?
Or maybe your sexual preference, if you’re gay, yet you aren’t yet ready to let others know, is this the right of all to see before you are prepared? Or maybe people that change their faith, with some religions doing this can cost your life, should all have access to this? What is more, what about in a place where your opposition to tyrants can cost your life, should this information be released anyways?
Right now all this privacy, or more aptly the invasion of privacy is under the control of idealistic people who in most ways still act like they are living on a college campus, idealist who think they have the moral right to dictate political thought to the rest of the world, and have no problem trying to snuff out what they see as wrong political thought. Many of us have seen this, and this needs to be addressed, who should control this data, or should we even have the right to demand control of this.
The problem is simple, with platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Google, you pay nothing for this service, and as we all know, nothing is for free. The way these companies make money is they sell advertising, but they also sale the data they collected, other companies use this data to target specific audiences they are looking to reach, this is known by most, to act like there is outrage when one politician does it, yet yell about the amazing work of another is just noise, it has nothing to do with reality, more blaming on an election loss, nothing more.
But back to the data, I think to see the companies as controlling this data, the control it can bring, the ability of companies to destroy lives, this is something we need to look at, but the question remains, do we want the government involved? Further, the size of these businesses in just 15 or 20 years has grown from a small tech company to something more substantial than even the great industrialist a hundred years ago that the government took apart due to anti-trust laws, and the companies today have much more power over our everyday lives then these people ever thought of.
So what needs to be done, and who should do it?
I think the first thing that needs to be looked at is the power these companies hold, the fact that they are so vast that they can manipulate data, destroy lives and businesses if they differ from their political thought process, and the fact that they are able, like the old business tycoons of ages past to shut down competition and run them into the ground, this is what anti-trust laws were made up for, this is something that has to be looked seriously into.
While I understand that what we are experiencing now is the price for working with this data, the amount of data these companies collect on everyone is outright terrifying. The smartphone you have in your pocket, even if you shut it down unless you remove the battery this phone will track where you have gone to see what you are visiting, this data is passed on collected on you, then used to target you by some business. The car you drive also has all this data now gathered, they do the same, the computer you use, it is nothing but a collection machine of your browsing interests, not only are companies collecting this, so is the government. Every time you turn on your computer, you not only have big brother watching, but you also have companies that are far more intrusive doing it as well. But the reality is, can anything be done?
I think as I stated earlier, we need to look at anti-trust laws, tech companies have grown so large and powerful I would rather see many smaller companies, many that are competing to control how your data is used then a single all-powerful entity that has such a lock on the business they merely don’t care how you feel about this.
In addition, we need to demand that this constant data collecting, it needs to be more under our control, not someone else’s, to expect the government, which we have already seen has no problem infringing on your privacy as well be trusted to control this is silly, we need to have the right to control what we can ourselves.
There is also the reality of genie is out of the bottle, you just can’t put it back in, there is no way we can go back to the 70’s where data collection on our everyday life is at a minimum, unless you are willing to toss out your computer, cell phone, only deal in cash, ride a bike, and live off the grid, this is merely not realistic, so we do the next best thing. We learn to be careful what we put out there, there is nothing wrong with finding out things, but today this leaves you open for all your browsing to be tracked, so look for a search engine that does not allow tracking, or resign yourself to the fact that you are monitored and forget it.
Kids today put everything out there on social networks, much of what they shouldn’t, leaves them open to be preyed upon not only by deviant predators, but even worse by corporate predators trying to manipulate young minds, as parents we need to be aware of what they are doing, control this best we can and try to teach our children it is better to talk to friends then expose all over the internet, for that is open to all.
I will share little personal information over the internet, but then I am a writer, what I write is stored, looked at, taken apart, and analyzed. If you pull up your data you find these programs place you in categories, if you are religious or not, conservative or liberal, if you are more center or to the far left or right. They know that thoughts are put down in articles, so even though I share as little as I can, they can tear apart these articles and categorize me, that is the price I pay for being out in the open with my political thoughts, but I control it, I know what they are collecting, and I will not put down personal trials, issues I may have with my spouse or child, there is something for privacy, no one needs to know.
So what do we do? We demand that the government looks at the all-controlling power these tech companies have, to require that equal right is given to competition that will protect our data rather than use it to control us, competition will drive this, what we have now is a few controlling this all. Anti-trust laws should be seriously looked at, and they should be looked at with all the tech giants if they are seen as all controlling, crushing anyone in their way, then controlling the masses through the data they possess.
We also need to learn to control what we do, but also have an understanding that regardless of what we do, there is a certain give when using services for free, the old saying ‘Nothing is free’ holds true here as well, if you aren’t paying for a service, they have to generate money somehow, chances are they are doing so by selling your data to advertisers or special interest groups.
And last, remember, as I said, you control what is out there, if you don’t want every part of your personal life stored and analyzed, collected and sold to the highest bidder, don’t put it out there, learn that there is strength in speaking face to face, using snail mail if you don’t want what you are saying seen by millions of eyes. And remember privacy is not a bad thing, it is a right, no one has the right to see all you have or know, nor are you in any way obligated to share it, you control what you want others to know, it is up to you to be sure you are managing it.