The Paw Print

Defending your Data

Jay Park, Web Editor in Chief

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  Not long after the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, Google is under investigation in Australia for unpermitted, large-scale, Android data harvesting. Though appearing like a friendly, trustworthy neighbor, Google’s true motives are clear: they want to monetize our data, at any cost.

  Some may casually dismiss this event as something impersonal, with thoughts like “I’m fine with my data being distributed. I have nothing to be ashamed about, after all.” This apathetic attitude is dangerous. The primary concern we should have right now is the substantial amount of liberty these companies have with our data without our permission. It is imperative that we learn from this exposure, that absolutely no company can or should be relied on to protect our privacy.

  Data is the new currency of this century. It is a treasure trove of information that companies can use to target products and discriminate against people with. For example, there have been information about prospective employees being rejected because they have been associated with radical gender movements. The turn of the 21st century has provided us with technology capable of gathering and processing such a vast amount of information. Modern computers can crunch billions of numbers in the blink of an eye, and companies can interpret this processed data with ease.

  Companies who are seeking your data are clever. They take advantage of the fact that majority of the people will not actively try to shut down their data collection as long as they don’t feel threatened or heavily affected. It has worked so far. Until these large companies were exposed recently, there was hardly any public outcry. We were absolutely unaware and blissfully unconcerned of the magnitude of data gathering.

  The extent of control companies have over our data is a direct violation of our fundamental right to privacy. As of right now, you and I have no clue of what is being done with our data or whose hands it is in. This is somehow permitted by the questionably ambiguous terms of service we accept when we started using Google and Facebook.

  But companies don’t care about what we think until there are legal consequences. They have been able to get away with all of their shenanigans until now because governmental regulation has been so loose. They ride the ambiguous gray area to “technically” legally harvest information. At this rate we are approaching Orwellian levels of privacy, which is to say none.

  The key to changing the shady status quo we have right now is awareness. All of the public must know how their personal information is being shared. This will be enough to trigger a backlash that prevents dominant control and usage of our data.

  In the meanwhile, you should try to not be so lax with what you do online. Identity is key. Try to create a separate alias with different name, birth date and other details. Using personal information where it isn’t necessary will only hurt you. It can be easy to laugh away at public service announcements that warn you of what you post on social media, but this goes further than just looking good on a college applications. Your posts are permanent piece of data that can and will be used against you in a scenario in the future. They are easy to access and dig up. Just taking these simple steps will put you in a far better position than someone who is unaware or ignorant of these precautions.

  The cyber world is under hardly any supervision, and it is likely there are some horrifyingly disturbing activities that are being done at this very moment, under our very noses. This question concerns more than merely our credit card or social security numbers. What is at stake is our essential and inseparable right to privacy as a human.

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Defending your Data