It is not too late to regain privacy: a book proposes to use technology without feeding "data vultures"


By CAPosts 13 January, 2021 - 03:28am 55 views

"If you are reading this book, you probably already know that your personal data is being collected, stored and analyzed, " began Carissa Véliz Privacy is Power , and the average person who reads it rolls their eyes because, of course , who is not aware. “ But are you aware of how far the invasion of privacy reaches in your life? "Continued the first chapter, entitled " The data vultures, " to cast doubt on even the most versed in scandals such as Cambridge Analytica.

" Let's start at dawn ", proposed a detailed analysis of that invasion.

" What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? You probably look at the phone . Voilà! That is the first data point you lose in the day, ”he ironically. “When you pick up the phone as the first activity in the morning, you inform a large group of nosy people - your smartphone manufacturer , all those apps that you have installed on your phone and your mobile service company , as well as the agencies of intelligence if you happen to be an 'interesting' person - what time do you get up, where have you slept, and with whom (assuming the person you share your bed with keeps their phone nearby as well). ”

More and more people use a smart watch , and all of them will have spilled other drops of their privacy even before opening their eyes , since the device "records each of your movements in bed, including, of course, any sexual activity." And many more, when they wake up and get ready to start the day, turn to apps to exercise, monitor oral hygiene or set eating goals during the day: more information shared with the designer and data brokers at the

The smart TV , which identifies what is watched in the home and reports it to the manufacturer and third parties (“a group of researchers found that a Samsung smart TV had been connected to more than 700 different addresses in internet after 15 minutes of use ”); the smart electricity meter , which can be easily hacked by house robbers to know when there is no one left in the house (since there is no higher consumption); the home assistant that records everything it hears and can send it by mistake (“ Echo was probably triggered by a word in your conversation that sounded like ' Alexa ' and then thought you were saying 'send the message'”); e-mail , which contains trackers 40% ( 70% if they are commercial messages)

Before even reaching the door of your house and looking out into the world, a person has delivered an enormous amount of information that will be used in his against sooner rather than later.

Our lives, translated into data, are the raw material of the surveillance economy, ” developed Véliz, professor of artificial intelligence ethics at the University of Oxford. “Our hopes, our fears, what we read, what we write, our relationships, our illnesses, our mistakes, our purchases, our weaknesses, our faces, our voices: all serve as food for the data vultures that collect everything. , they analyze everything and sell it to the highest bidder.

For what purpose? To recommend Twitter or Instagram accounts that you might be interested in following? A movie or series that fits the profile of what you've seen on Netflix ? A new recipe?

Véliz observed a little further: “To betray our secrets before insurance companies, employers and governments ; to sell us things that we should not buy; to confront each other in an effort to destroy society from within; to misinform us and hijack our democracies . The surveillance society has transformed citizens into users and data objects ”.

Last October, Amazon put the Ring smart doorbell , a company owned by it, on sale for its Prime Day and soon ran out of inventory. Privacy is Power described that technology: “Those videos are stored unencrypted , which makes them extremely vulnerable to hacking. Amazon has applied for a patent to use its facial recognition software on doorbells. In some cities, like Washington DC , the police want to register, and even subsidize, private security cameras . Anyone can imagine where the recordings of the smart doorbells will end up and what they will be used for. ”

The average person may think that it will not affect her, since she believes that she has nothing to hide .

However,” Véliz recalled to BBC - " You have much to hide and fear , unless you are an exhibitionist with masochistic desires to suffer identity theft, discrimination, unemployment, public humiliation and totalitarianism ", among other possible risks. "Another thing is that you don't know what to hide."

His book cited a tragic example during World War II .

In the countries they occupied, the Nazis analyzed public records to find Jews . In the Netherlands , which had an exemplary detail of the people, with identification of their domiciles and their religion, they eliminated 75% of the Jewish population .

In France there were no such files. The occupation commissioned René Carmille, Comptroller General of the French Army , to cross-check people's identity data with those of religion. Carmille had to use Hollerith machines, which used modern computing techniques : IBM punch cards . But the military man, who was a member of the French resistance , reprogrammed the machines to skip column 11 , where religion was indicated. This saved hundreds of thousands of lives .

However, in 2010 Mark Zuckerberg , founder and CEO of Facebook - which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp - declared that "privacy is no longer a social norm ." During the Crunchie Awards ceremony in San Francisco , he theorized, although deep down he only talked about his business model: “People feel really comfortable not only sharing more and different information, but more openly and with more people. . That social norm has evolved over time. ”

Few individuals in the world embody as visibly as Zuckerberg what supports the title of Véliz's book, who wrote:“ Privacy matters because lacking it gives others power over you ” . Facebook has violated the right to privacy so many times, adding "that an exhaustive count would merit another book."

Currently - analyzed the academic from the Universities of Salamanca, Toronto, New York and Oxford - Facebook does not sell data, technically: " Sell the power to influence you, "he said, the second person who often uses the book published in the United Kingdom , which will also be released in the United States in April. "They sell the power to show you advertising and the power to predict your behavior. "

One of the keys to how this daily assault on privacy is possible is that people do not perceive the loss in the moment . "You don't feel an absence, you don't see it physically." Only bad experiences materialize the lack of protection of the information itself.

He gave as an example that of a Spanish victim of identity theft , who for years has had to clarify in court that it was not she who committed this or that theft ; Like her, there were 225,000 cases in the UK in 2019.

There are other situations that are just as illegal , but so silent that there is simply no way to check them

“Have you ever been denied insurance, credit or a job ?” asked Penguin at the book launch. A person who goes out with the phone in their pocket leaves a record of the speed at which they walk , and that is an indicator of their physical condition that can be used to change the premium of a health insurance or deny a mortgage or prefer the most agile candidate. "With full access to your personal data, it is very easy for them to discriminate against you without ever finding out, " wrote the Spanish-Mexican philosopher.

What is your sexual orientation; how and where do you live; who are your friends and your family; What's your job; what political opinions and what your musical tastes; what health problem do you have; what you eat and drink; if you have a car or property; what movies and series do you watch; what is your state of mind; what time do you go to bed and get up; what are you looking for on the internet; what do you like ; What fears and hopes do you have: all that data - and even more, and that of your contacts - is what technology companies collect and sell to governments, other companies and "data vultures" , as Véliz called them, which in turn Sometimes they resell them on a chain in which criminals appear much earlier than people imagine.

“The data economy, and the widespread surveillance from which it thrives , took us by surprise,” assessed Privacy is Power . “Tech companies didn't inform users about how they used our data, much less asked us for permission. They didn't ask our governments, either. There were no laws to regulate the information trail that unsuspecting citizens left as we went about our business in an increasingly digital world. By the time we realized this was happening, the surveillance architecture was in place. Much of our privacy had been lost. ”

The coronavirus pandemic did not improve the situation, on the contrary:“ Privacy faces new threats since many activities that were previously physical have moved to virtual , and they have asked us to deliver our personal information in the name of the common good ”. Behaviors that in the physical world would be considered coercive are commonplace in the digital world. “This is a time to think very carefully about what kind of world we want to live in when the pandemic is a distant memory.

A world without privacy is dangerous, the author warned. “The surveillance economy is not only bad because it creates and strengthens undesirable power asymmetries . It is also dangerous because it deals with a toxic substance ”. He devoted the entire fourth chapter to that notion of toxicity whereby “personal data is a potential disaster.”

Storing data is like storing flammable material. He cited security expert Bruce Schneier, who created the concept of "toxic goods" : those that sooner or later will be used against us . “Even when the information has been collected with good intentions - in medical research, for example - if the data is kept long enough, it may end up being sold or stolen and used for vile purposes.

For your vulnerability, the data endangers the subjects who have generated it and also who stores it: companies that have suffered violations of their security, for example. But if highly toxic substances are regulated and even prohibited in society, why not create rules so that certain data is out of the market?

"Just as we agree that some very important or sensitive things should not be for sale, such as children, organs and votes, " argued Véliz, "certain types of information are so personal that they should not be allowed profit from it ”. Nowadays, instead, the user profiles that data marketers create are organized into categories that include things such as whether someone has been the victim of a crime or if they suffer from a disease

The personal dimension, of law , of the own information, it's pretty obvious to the author. “Privacy consists of being able to keep certain intimate things to yourself : thoughts, experiences, conversations, plans. Human beings need privacy to be able to relax from the burden of being with other people. We need privacy to freely explore new ideas, to make decisions. Privacy protects us from unwanted pressures and abuses of power.

And there is also the institutional aspect:“ We need it to be autonomous individuals, and for democracies to function well we need individuals to be autonomous ”.

Democratic society is based in the equal treatment of all individuals . That is lost when people stop seeing the same content online and even pay different prices for the same product : "If we are treated according to our data (if we are women or men, skinny or fat, rich or poor ) We are not treated as equal citizens.

Without that basic equality, the rest of the structure falls: " Generalized surveillance is incompatible with free, democratic and liberal societies in which human rights are respected ", Véliz synthesized.

And currently the commitment to privacy "is more dangerous than ever, "he added. “We have never accumulated so much personal data about citizens. And we've allowed surveillance to grow at a time when cybersecurity standards are low , democracies are weak, and authoritarian hacking regimes are on the rise. ”

Power based on people's privacy -“ the guy of power par excellence in the digital age ”- it is excessive, it is exercised by the Chinese government with its social credit system (which controls people's behavior, very similar to the “ Nosedive ” chapter of Black Mirror ) or Uber , Cambridge Analytica ( whose interference was found, among other elections, in the Brexit referendum and in the 2020 US elections won by Donald Trump ) or a social plan as a kind of tax on the poor.

However, Véliz is optimistic: “It is too late to stop the data economy from developing, but it is not too late to regain our privacy.

“ We are not witnessing the death of privacy. Although privacy is in trouble , we are in a better position today than we have been in the past decade to defend it. This is just the beginning of the fight to safeguard personal data in the digital age. Too much is at stake to allow privacy to die - our lifestyle is in jeopardy. Surveillance threatens freedom, equality, democracy, autonomy, creativity and privacy ”, he summarized.

In his conclusions he imagined a future paradoxically similar to the past :“ You can have a private conversation without it becoming public. You can make mistakes without that defining your future. You can search online for what worries you, what makes you curious, without your interests haunting you later. You can ask a lawyer for advice without suspecting that the government is listening to you and without fear that you could be self-incriminating. You can be sure that the information about who you are, what has happened to you, what you expect and what you fear, and what you have done will not be used against you. ”

A few years ago, no one thought that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) , currently in force in the European Union , if possible, he gave as an example. For Privacy is Power the issue is politics and legislation. It's a civil liberties issue .

“Privacy is too important to let it die. Who you are and what you do is nobody's business. You are not a product to convert to data and nurture predators for a price. You are not for sale. You are a citizen, and privacy is owed to you. It's your right, ”he reasoned. "Those who have violated our right to privacy have abused our trust, and it is time to take away their source of power: our data. "

Source: Infobae

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