The Price is Privacy
Anything that comes for free always receives a red carpet reception from the consumers. The digital world is no exception. While tech giants like Google offered free email services and an array of other useful services free of cost everyone was happy, especially the common public at the user end. Not anymore after Snowden’s revelation exactly a year ago. In fact this article in a way commemorates the Snowden revelation that created unprecedented awareness and thereby a debate on digital security and individual privacy.
You might’ve heard about the term ‘cookies’. IT goes with other names like web cookies or browser cookies. A cookie is a small piece of data sent from a website which you log in for the first time. This was primarily to help the website to help the surfer to track his/her activity in that site. For instance if you’re a regular to certain sites, you might have your exclusive browser history, to help you track your searches. This is done by a cookie installed in your computer from the website. To this extent they’re reliable. Though cookies can’t install viruses they can very well install third party malwares, and that is where the risk begins.
Malware is short for malicious software, which sneaks into private computer systems to snoop in sensitive and private information of an individual without his consent or knowledge. Such data will let anyone who has an access to it, to develop the digital caricature of that individual with the personal information thus collected. The data thus collected is often called big data. With the big data in hands one can know everything about you both trivial and extremely sensitive personal information. Exploiting this data the marketers can come up with targeted ads shown up in the ad spaces of your pages in social networking sites and the websites you visit regularly.
Months back I had flipcarted for Colm Tóibín’s ‘The testament of Mary’ but refrained myself from ordering it, having decided to delay the order and later suspended it temporarily. But in the ad apace of my FB page and in few sites where I stop for reading regularly, the ad about this book began to pop up and to my wonder it kept showing up for months, even after I had got the book along with my friend’s order list. The ad like the Hutch dog was following me everywhere, appearing continually luring me to buy, what it thought to be my preference. This is just an example how the big marketers out there hook up their targets with irrefutable baits. Social networking media has synthesized a whole new economy through sale of big data to third parties, for targeted advertisements and other purposes.
The magnitude of the insecurity over personal data, of any kind, shared online and other digital communicative modes, shocked everyone while the whistle blower Snowden’s revelation on NSA surveillance, last year. All were shocked when the news about Google monitoring and spying on individual mail traffics at the back end for a price of $225 per ID. Alarmed MNCs and conglomerates shut down their business communications via such services, switching over private mail services. This was also the pivotal moment where the netizens and fellow gadget freaks were alarmed about the ‘data frisking’ –for data is akin to your digital self- being performed for the benefit of third party, an act of breach in the privacy of the users.
Recently the social networking giant Facebook has announced openly that it is to monitor the online behavior of its user not just while logged in to FB but while offline alike. Every like you click, every comment you post, every forum or page you frequent will be pried on and the data thus collected would serve as an enormous data for the advertisers to customize their ads targeted to an individual. These tech giants in fact know more about citizens than their governments know, and know more about children than their parents do.
The arrival of Android smarphones and their mass penetration into the demography like India which lists second in the list of FB users globally with around 100 million users, have dug the hole even deeper. We all are happy about getting Applications absolutely free in the Playstore market. We just accept the terms and conditions blindly without even reading it, with our entire urge focused on downloading the app. The conditions seek our permissions to track on our personal activities via our mobiles that include browser histories to as personal as our call logs, and we give them a go without a moment of hesitation.
Privacy in the digital world is being looked with a growing concern from all quarters of the globe. The voices calling for transparency in the digital realm have intensified over years and this is a serious issue that calls for addressing immediately.
My friend it’s a world that runs on commerce. Nothing here comes for free. And if you think it does in the digital world you’re paying your privacy for it and that is costlier.