The digital world is growing faster than ever. While there’s no denying the impact technology has had on our access to information, digitalization has also exposed users in ways that have never seen before. Privacy is a word that may soon be extinct thanks to big data. Even more concerning is the security issues that stem from a life lived online. Malicious hacks and online attacks further serve to expose a public that is increasingly reliant on the web. The fluid nature of the digital age means there are many question marks surrounding both privacy and security.
Being online means that you’re sacrificing basic privacies. But the online space is a necessity for modern life. It’s simply not sustainable to exist in a workplace or social community without basic access to the web. This leaves users in a catch-22: they can either enjoy privacy or isolate themselves from a vast majority of the world. What’s the driving force behind this lack of privacy? Big data.
Big data is a term used to reference the collection and analysis of large data sets. It uses algorithms to correlate trends and behavior. The rise of big data is directly correlated to the rise of data in general. In fact, 90 percent of the world’s data has been created in the past two years. Data collection is now at an unprecedented rate with everything from social media networks to financial institutions accessing large amounts of personal data.
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Data brokers, commercial organizations that collect and resell user data, are also on the rise. They collect data on millions of consumers and resell it to companies for targeted marketing. That’s not to mention government surveillance, which has become a point of contention in countries across the globe. Big data’s growth has serious security implications as well. We live in a time where access to everything from our bank accounts to our medical records is accessible at the click of a button. The prevalence of personal information online will only serve to mobilize hackers intent on capitalizing on the state of privacy.
So where does that leave the future of security and privacy? It all depends. Thus far, there have been no significant indications that user privacy will be protected in the future. The rise of tech culture has given huge power to online media. Sites like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter have grown thanks in large part to data collection. Meanwhile, governments and institutions have collected massive amounts of data with relatively little pushback. That could be due to a disconnect between the public and the data collectors. Users readily give away their private information. However, they might think twice if they were aware that their data could be reused or repurposed. They might not know the extent that their privacy is being threatened. One recent study proved just that. 500 participants were given a terms and conditions contract. 98 percent of the participants agreed to the terms – despite the fact that included a clause stating you agreed to give away your first-born child. Simply put – users either don’t understand or care about their privacy.
Moving forward, privacy and security will remain points of emphasis for policymakers. The United States launched an initiative called Reclaim Your Name, which intends to create more transparency between data brokers and consumers. The European Union approved a policy that allows watchdogs to issue fines if companies misuse personal data. Additionally, the United Nations adopted a resolution that will act as a safeguard for global privacy. Questions remain despite the effort to police privacy. For one, a uniform approach to privacy is difficult in a world with so many different viewpoints on online privacy and data collection. Even more pressing is the vast quantity of data that’s available. The sheer amount of data and the ability to analyze it makes surveillance inevitable.
Any straw poll would reveal that people are opposed to the surveillance of their personal data. But the digital age has made sharing data commonplace. Consumers are becoming more accustomed to a lack of privacy. Unless they mobilize against big data soon, it looks increasingly clear that the future will only promise more surveillance.
AJ Delorena is the founder of Talented Technologies and writes on their blog “The Bleeding Edge Of Tech”. He founded Talented Technologies in 2008, after he a successful career in Silicon Valley in both IT Engineering and Sales roles, seeing a unique opportunity in the IT secondary market (link), as a quintessential Silicon Valley startup that quickly outgrew his garage in one month.