How giving up your internet privacy might backfire?
In this age of social media, IoT and big data, how much internet privacy do we have left? As the digital age and relentless data harvesting continue, what does the future hold?
These might seem like innocuous and unnecessary questions when the world is currently at the height of enjoying the benefits inherent in social media, IoT, big data and all other emerging technologies. However, it is important to recognize that the loss of privacy is a cost no one can afford to ignore – a future with zero privacy might prove to be a very scary scenario. To help enumerate this, consider the effects of big data and IoT on internet privacy.
The effects of big data on privacy
Big data is great. No one can dispute its benefits. It involves collecting and analyzing the large volume of data sets (known as big data) to discover useful hidden patterns and other information like customer choices, and market trends.
Such information helps organizations or businesses make more informed and customer-oriented business decisions. However, bear in mind that the data being analyzed is essentially information about you.
Companies and organizations are continually collecting data on your day to day behaviors—from your shopping habits to your hobbies and the things and people you care about. As part of the analysis, they then use this data to make conclusions about you.
While this is not necessarily a bad thing, note that it can also backfire largely. How so?
How big data can backfire
Consider, for example, a report by the New York Times a while ago. The report indicated that thanks to big data, a certain Canadian retailer found that all the clients who bought premium birdseed were likely to make payments on time.
On the other hand, customers who made a historical skull-shaped car accessories purchase tended to miss payments. Consequently, all the customers who bought skull-shaped car accessories were rejected for store credit irrespective of whether their financial situation.
Think about that critically. Think about a situation where thanks to your credit score which is based on big data analysis, a bank rejects your application for a mortgage. That means big data analytics essentially decided you will never be a homeowner; not necessarily because you are a credit risk but because an algorithm decided you don’t measure up.
If that is not chilling enough, consider a scenario where an organization or the government uses the data to manipulate you into buying something or into making a certain decision – mass manipulation, in a nutshell. Are the benefits of big data worth surrendering the freedom to make fair choices?
The effects of IoT on privacy
IoT is all about using devices other than your phone or computer to access the internet. These internet-enabled smart devices bring your personal life at home online.
As a result, someone monitoring can easily figure out which room you are in based on whether the AC and lights are on. One can also determine whether you are cooking, having a party or smoking based on the air quality in the room.
Moreover, your Wi-Fi enabled printer could be storing your print history making it possible for someone to access your sensitive documents. The list goes on and on.
In addition to the creepiness of having your life monitored by complete strangers, recognize that having such information online can make it is easy for criminals such as thieves to target you.
That raises the question, what can you do about it? How can you protect yourself especially considering how useful both big data and IoT technologies are?
How can you ensure you are working towards a future with private internet even as you use these technologies?
It is obvious that in years to come, the invasion of privacy will not slow. Research on big data, IoT, and machine learning is still ongoing which means as time goes by, these technologies will continue establishing themselves.
For a chance to enjoy all that these technologies offer while still guarding yourself, it is essential to learn the basics of privacy protection. For one, identify privacy-oriented tools that will help you work towards a future with private internet.
Anonymous engines do not track your searches, and private browsers do not store your cache or history. Such tools include anonymous search engines like Duckduckgo and Qwant, they are great for keeping your keyword searches away from Google, who already knows everything else about you from your Chrome browsing history to your Google Pixel. Speaking of browsers, you can also go for private browsers like Tor, or use Adblock extensions such as uBlock Origin. When it comes to paying online, go for cryptocurrencies to stay away from centralised systems. To encrypt your router network and protect your IoT devices from interception and hacking, install a VPN on the router. A good VPN should shield your communications while keeping no logs on their end.
These are a few privacy-protection motes you can build around you to deflect eavesdropping and tracking attempts that benefit corporates and governments at your expense.