The Internet gave us virtually everything in exchange for our privacy, which we voluntarily gave away with no questions asked, yet we keep clamouring for data privacy.
The reality is that almost all technology companies, at one point or the other, are collecting our data and we are happy with it.
The government is also not left out in the harvesting of our information at will.
Back in 2005, the then US President, George W. Bush authorised the National Security Agency to intercept the international communications of people with known links to Al-Qaeda and related terrorist organisations.
In 2013, the Nigerian government reportedly commissioned a $40 million contract to an Israel-based company to spy on Nigerians on the Internet. And there’s evidence suggesting that the Bayelsa State government employed the services of an Italian-based company, Hacking Team, to hack its citizens in 2013.
While recently checking out collateral-free loan providers in Nigeria, my loan request on one of the providers couldn’t go through as the mobile app requested access to information from my mobile device which included my SMS log, among others.
Since I am not registered for SMS notifications for my banking services, I couldn’t get my loan request approved.
The recent data breach scandal involving Cambridge Analytica and Facebook is just a case of making a scapegoat out of Facebook.
According to Chris Saad, a serial entrepreneur, Facebook didn’t sell users’ data; Cambridge Analytica bought the data from another company that had built a quiz app that has Facebook users’ data.
Just like the quiz app, we have at one point or the other shared our data with third-party apps, both on and off the social network giant.
The Internet is taking more than it’s giving or better put, we are giving the Internet more — surrendering our privacy for convenience and we don’t even care.
We turn to Twitter for our ranting sprees, post images on Instagram and Snapchat with our locations, update our friends about our daily lives using WhatsApp status and Facebook.
Repeat after me
Data privacy is a myth….
Data privacy is a myth……
— Chinmay Dhumal (@ChinmayDhumal) March 28, 2018
A lot of companies offer ‘disguised’ free services and in exchange, they gather data which is then sold to companies in need.
The 2013 documentary movie — Terms and Conditions May Apply — gives an insight into how Internet companies are getting people’s data and how it has eventually affected privacy.
Social Lender, a collateral-free loan provider, uses social media to determine people’s creditworthiness. And just recently, it was reported that the United States will start using social media history as part of its vetting exercise for visa application processes.
No doubt, data is the future but at what cost?
Corporations like the Cambridge Analytica, among others, are holding and feeding off harvested data, and smartphones have only made this more feasible; we are already talking about the Internet of Things where everything will be connected to the Internet.
Service providers on the Internet have terms and conditions which we don’t bother reading but accept them. How can we claim to have our privacy taken away when we actually give it up?
Reading Facebook’s Terms will take you about 25 minutes — an irrecoverable 25 minutes of one’s life.
Facebook’s data policy reads in part:
“We use the information we have to improve our advertising and measurement systems so that we can show you relevant ads on and off our Services and measure the effectiveness and reach of ads and services.”
Privacy is just an illusion in the present stage of human evolution. With the Internet, it’s a case of Big Brother — businesses of various sizes — is watching you.
We can choose to delete our online footprints, but according to Max Schrems, an Austrian lawyer, information Internet users delete is still available for an indefinite time to security agencies of the government as well as the Internet companies providing the services; the deleted data is only hidden to the users.
In a recent blog post, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, Gbenga Sesan, affirmed that until an enforceable law is in place, Nigerians will continue to be denied the protections that their Constitution grants them regarding data.
But how much can we hold our government responsible in the face of the Internet?
Just recently, I was out of Lagos and though the location feature of my phone was off, Google was still able to tell me the weather condition where I was.
There are apps that access and analyse information on our smartphones. Yet we don’t understand that these apps are invading our privacy.
It’s no news, the age of personal privacy is long gone.
Don’t worry about data privacy; if you are reading this you probably have at least 10 accounts on the Internet. The alternative to your privacy being invaded is deleting all your Internet accounts and staying off smartphones — that’s a ticket back to the early 20th century.
With all that has been said, one question arises — does privacy even matter anymore? It’s already an open world, a global village.
NEW REPORT ALERT: “Millionaire West African startups” raised over $1.806 billion between 2010 and 2019, 97.9% of which went to Nigerian startups. Find out more in the full report.
Listen to Built in Africa, a podcast by Techpoint Africa