We live in an age of infinite information on the Internet, data collection and social media. Society has embraced the technological development but in the last few years the flipside of technology has become evident. The Cambridge Analytica scandal showed the world several decades ago how technology in the wrong hands can be used for questionable practices. Since then we made sure that scandals such as that of Cambridge Analytica would not happen more often. The government imposed stricter rules and made it the responsibility of the user to conduct research and protect themselves. With more people becoming aware of data collection an interesting question to ask is why do people in 2050 still use new technology if they know that their data can be traced? Privacy intrusion is castigated by most people but the majority of people still use apps and products that are made by companies with debatable ethics. Where do consumers set a limit and is this in line with where they would set their limit in an ideal situation?
Why would consumers still allow their data to be collected even if they are not comfortable with this? The reason for this is convenience. The consumer takes into consideration how convenient a certain app or product is, even if they have to give up a part of their privacy. You have probably been in a situation in which you wanted to visit a website but the website asks permission for cookies, if you need the information on the website you will probably agree to the cookies, if you think the disadvantages outweigh the advantages you can leave the website. You as a consumer are put in a predicament in which you can either miss out on information you need or you are forced by the company to overstep your moral boundaries and allow an intrusion of your privacy.
Social media is known as a breach of personal privacy, users post information of themselves on the internet for others to see. Even though users realize this, most of them use social media regularly (there are currently about 2.895 billion social media users in the world that is 39% of the entire world population). The loss of privacy is not a large problem for most users if their friends are the only ones who can see their feed or messages. The Cambridge Analytica scandal showed users how social media can be used by corporation for immoral purposes. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a scandal in which the following happened. 87 million Facebook users had their data exposed by 270 thousand Facebook users who participated in a quiz app. Cambridge Analytica received the information of the 87 million users via a loophole which allowed them to not only access the data of the 270 thousand quiz app users but also of all their Facebook friends. The data that Cambridge Analytica owned was passed on to the Trump Campaign due to a mutual partner: Steve Bannon. The data gave the Trump Campaign team a chance to target certain groups of Facebook users to influence them in the form of advertisements, for example. So, in short, the information of 87 million Facebook users was exposed because a company with the intention to collect information made a quiz app on a social media website that is meant for leisure.
So by now, in 2050, everyone knows how large corporations can misuse your data. Are there any positives effects of giving up your data? In 2017 there was a referendum in the Netherlands to decide whether the Dutch intelligence and security services needed an expansion of their authorization to collect data. The law states that ‘The processing of personal data by the General Intelligence and Security Service can only relate to persons: giving rise to a serious suspicion that they are a danger to the democratic legal order, or to security or to other important interests of the state; who have given permission for a safety investigation; whom are a necessity in the context of the research on other countries; about whom information was obtained from another intelligence or security service; whose data are necessary to support proper performance of the task by the service; who work or have worked for a service; about whom this is necessary in the context of drawing up the threat and risk analysis.’. This is a law with the purpose of combatting terroristic acts by intercepting information, the law also states that the data of people living in the surrounding area of the suspect can be collected and stored for up to 3 years.
One could argue that this law should have protected Dutch citizens from acts of terror but the issue is more complicated. The government kept changing and even though the government did not misuse the data in 2017, a future government pushed this law’s boundaries. According to article 25 of the law ‘The services are authorized to tapping, receiving, recording and listening to any form of conversation, telecommunication or data transfer by means of a technical aid, by means of an automated work, without respect to where this takes place. The authority referred to in the first sentence also includes the authority to undo encryption of the calls, telecommunication or data transfer.’. Cameras and recording devices were allowed in every your house/room and made it possible for the government to listen and watch what you are doing. Yours is sensitive data and dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands. This brings us to another issue with this law. There was no 100% guarantee that the government can protect this data. Hackers were becoming smarter and more effective and a breach became inevitable. This law was passed and went into effect on the 1st of January 2018. But then society turned into George Orwell’s novel 1984.
Concluding, you as a consumer have to decide whether your personal data is valuable to you, or if you decide to let companies track your data, even if this means that you cannot access certain websites, are not able to buy your luxury goods. It is important that you realise how valuable your data/information is to not only you, but also to companies. Lastly, it is essential that no matter what your stance on the topic is, you think about your boundaries concerning privacy and you keep standing your ground when your privacy is intruded. Help us make society private and therefore, great again.