With the launch of our companion site, privacy.do, we are rerunning the EXPOSED! series 'Orwell's Blueprint' that provides the background on how our privacy is being stolen in 'plain sight'! This week, we revisit chapter 6...
Surveillance Capitalism! Sounds great, doesn't it? But this is exactly the world we live in, atm!
As I mentioned in another EXPOSED! blog post, the world has become a place where data is worth more the oil, gold or Bitcoin combined, data is 'the new oil' as they say!. Your data, and I don't just mean your location, or what you type, what websites you visit, but also your metadata has become extremely valuable. Acxiom, for example, has data on 2.5 billion 'clients' around the world. Have you even ever heard of them? Did you agree they could have your data? Did you agree what they could do with your data?
One problem here is that this is not the only company which has your data, and Acxiom is trading, selling and exchanging your data and especially the metadata it collects on everything you do.
Some of you might use SwiftKey as part of your daily drive and as a keyboard on your phone. It's simple and it's great, isn't it? Well, it also collects data on what you type, when you type it and share that data with 3rd parties. That is just one example of tech you might use every day and yet were not aware that your data was being compromised. And SwiftKey is not the only keyboard that shares your data, this is why I mention firewalls and blocking access to apps which should not have and do not need internet access at all.
When it comes to keyboards, I would always replace the pre-installed version with an open-source keyboard which does not need internet access!
So today's article is about Surveillance Capitalism but not just the usual suspects you would expect. Google, Facebook, Amazon and co, where we all know and, maybe, accept (for convenience) that they collect and sell our data. I wouldn't, but I don't judge if you do, after all you have nothing to hide ;)
I've also heard the counter-arguments, 'the NSA is a treat to Americans, but I am from Europe, or Asia, so it doesn't affect me'. Or 'the Chinese government does not affect me, so I don't care when Chinese systems have backdoors'. The problem, however, is the data they and these third parties have collected. Only because today your government is not a treat, or you have nothing to hide, doesn't mean this data can't get into the wrong hands and could come back to haunt you a few years down the road.
The problem doesn't end with these threats, the government agencies or the 3rd party brokerage firms which collect data. It extends to those companies selling, licensing and sharing data between each other. These firms are 'middle man', literally conducting a 'what should be seen as a 'man in the middle' attack on your privacy. They are not just reselling, but repackaging and combining data from other companies.
Your data is digital gold, and you have never really been ask if you agreed to this data been used. Maybe you want health or car insurance or a rental contract etc. This data might be making the decisions about the costs of your insurance or denying you deal or coverage completely.
CoreLogic is another such firm, and even if you've never heard of them, they claim to hold real estate and property information on 99.9 percent of the US population. Acxiom claims more than 11000 data attributes from 2.5 billion people. This information ranges from auto loan information to travel preferences, and all that has been collected and shared without peoples knowledge.
Sure, it is maybe helpful from time to time, as those brokers will make it 'easier" for you, as they know you live in a poorer neighborhood and, of course, that is what gets into your profile. It also makes the decision for you (you really shouldn't see a job proposal that belongs in a better neighborhood... let's not even finish these thoughts), but they can manipulate what you see, what ads you get and what job offers you receive.
Now you will have also been categorized by your skin color, if you are married, divorced, watch midget porn or all the other things you've been doing all day long. Remember, it is not just Google that knows more about you than your mother does. The problem is the influence on your life and not necessarily in a good way.
Step back for a while and consider this information.
Now consider this information been spiced up with the address book from your phone, your Google searches, your friends, neighbors, the people around you on the bus (even if you don't know them). Yes! Maybe you sit near a felon on a bus, and then, not far from your regular coffee place, another bad actor turns up? That is two potentially bad metadata points for you. It is not perfect data and that just makes it even more dangerous.
What is becoming increasingly clear, especially as recent events in the USA are showing, is that the onus of blame and burden, the pain and punishment resulting from this data manipulation falls on those least able to respond and fight back.
If you are poorer, a person of color, come from an oppressed or marginalized community then you are at greater risk of an adverse outcome in the misuse of your own data against yourself!
The financial incentives available to companies that can provide 'People Search' data are such that they will willingly provide government agencies and predatory financial firms, whoever will pay, with all the names and addresses plus plus that they want and for virtually any purpose! Truly scary!
Law enforcement buys information of these data brokers. Profiling you based on this information, yes, including the guy who is unrelated to you but near you on the bus, or the porn your brother was watching on your PC, much of this data is not accurate, which makes metadata manipulation one of the most dangerous things in today's world.
People are being denied housing or jobs because of faulty information from such data blockage firms and these are just the tips of several icebergs!
Surveillance Capitalism is the single most dangerous threat to today's world, and if you are one of the people who have nothing to hide, that's fine with me. But that doesn't mean we all have things to share, especially not with companies of which we've never heard. Furthermore, getting profiled on information which is false, inaccurate and shouldn't be anyone's business but yours is just plain wrong!
Every bit counts, de-google your life, use your phone less, or block access via blocklists to data miners, block access to apps which shouldn't be using the internet, use an encrypted DNS provided with a blocklist. It is so easy, yet some people don't even bother with that simple step. It is your data on the line, for sale, for hacks, and for a lot of false accusations.
Privacy is a human right! We all have read this sentence, yet we're allowing those rights to be eroded daily.