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The Erosion Of Privacy By Adoption Of Personal Technologies

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A decade ago it used to be so difficult to keep track of our daily schedule that missing few appointments was always part of that schedule. But in today’s world of technology we almost have solutions to all our miseries. However, over the time as more efficient technologies advanced into our lives we became more dependent on them and that has resulted an enormous pressure on the manufactures and developers of these technologies to be more efficient. Modern giants in technologies like Google, Apple, Walmart, amazon which are at race to develop impeccable devices which need very much large amount of data to be fed to these processing hungry beasts.

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When we choose to enter the world of internet we often are unaware of the exposure and assume that if everyone is doing it then, why not me? After the very first internet search we do on a browser, we have already left footprint which just floats around on the internet. Many computer scientist and internet analyst already make us aware that how the user profiling is done to provide the ground base for our advertisements. That is not possible without capturing our data and taking the useful chunks which can be turned into business profits.

Technology has forced people to rethink the public/private distinction. One of the best attempts to define the full range of privacy concerns of our intersection with new technologies, “A Taxonomy of Privacy, ” appeared in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review in 2006. Its author, Daniel Solove, now a professor at George Washington University Law School, identified 16 privacy harms modulated by new technologies, including: information collection by surveillance; aggregation of information; insecurity of information; and disclosure, exposure, distortion, and increased accessibility of information.

Yves Le Roux, Technology Strategist at CA Technologies and Chair of ISACA’s Data Privacy Task Force and his team on having privacy study following a European paper issued by Michael Friedewald, distinguished seven types of privacy:

  1. Privacy of the person encompasses the right to keep body functions and body characteristics (such as genetic codes and biometrics) private.
  2. Privacy of behaviour and action includes sensitive issues such as sexual preferences and habits, political activities and religious practices.
  3. Privacy of communication aims to avoid the interception of communications, including mail interception, the use of bugs, directional microphones, telephone or wireless communication interception or recording and access to e-mail messages.
  4. Privacy of data and image includes concerns about making sure that individuals’ data is not automatically available to other individuals and organisations and that people can “exercise a substantial degree of control over that data and its use”.
  5. Privacy of thoughts and feelings. People have a right not to share their thoughts or feelings or to have those thoughts or feeling revealed. Individuals should have the right to think whatever they like.
  6. Privacy of location and space, individuals have the right to move about in public or semi-public space without being identified, tracked or monitored.
  7. Privacy of association (including group privacy), is concerned with people’s right to associate with whomever they wish, without being monitored.

Most of the users approve privacy policies without even a single glance at them and many of these policies are vague guidelines which approves their content to the processing of their data. The consent to this agreement is mandatory to access the service. Consequently, the user has no choice if it wants to use it. Furthermore, the service provider may change this policy. Everybody remembers the Instagram case. In December 2012 Instagram said that it has the perpetual right to sell users’ photographs including for advertising purposes without payment or notification. Due to the strong reaction, Instagram has backed down.

Fitness watches which measure our hearts beats, breathing, blood pressure and other vital signs all sync to the databases and save our measurements on the cloud for computation and processing. Based on our history they can recommend doctors and hospitals or even insurance plans. It is also a very proven fact that insurance companies specifically show interest in these data so they me increase the monthly premiums clients if their daily habits are not healthy.

Scientists have long been excited by the possibilities of using biometric information such as fingerprints, palm prints, or iris scans for positive identification: people could use them to open their cars or their homes. Inexpensive digital cameras are already good enough to capture fingertip friction-ridge information at a range of two to three feet, and image resolution and capture speed are improving all the time, even as the cost of the technology keeps dropping. It is like walking around with your Social Security number on your forehead. It is a little different because it is not linked to your credit report or your credit card but it does not require a tremendous leap of imagination to picture a world where credit cards require fingerprint verification. Most people do not realize they will be photographed roughly 15 times, on average, during a simple drive to the supermarket. On that same trip, they will typically end up on about 90 seconds of video without ever knowing about it. The texts and the calls they made on the way could also be tracked. The metadata will be sent instantly to databases around the world and into the cloud, where it will be immediately available to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people and organizations. Our smartphones are broadcasting our exact locations at every moment, possibly sending the information to our friends, governments around the world, we are not aware of.

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about”, this a general say by the people who we call lawmakers. The recent WikiLeaks cable dissemination has gardened strong reactions from government officials. American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called “an attack on the international community. ” Rep. Peter King of Long Island called for the organization to be labeled terrorists. What these lawmakers are missing is the fact that on average every person has been subject to the same kind of scrutiny and invasion of privacy that the upper echelons of governments are now experiencing. Many argue that privacy is an intrinsic value and shouldn’t be treated as a dispensable commodity. They argue that privacy is essential for self-development, and without that, we would all conform to each other and lose our individuality. This is true in certain aspects but it can be knocked down, all we must do is make information more public so much so that it loses its value hence no more exploitation. In many countries, the health-related privacies are protected by certain laws such as HIPPA. But people need to know that certain amount of privacy is always leaking from the variable sources so why not agree to the extant where it becomes useful and might play a vital role in eradication of certain harmful disease. There is always possibility that we will decide as a society not to support privacy and in coming future it might not be optional anymore.

The leading tech giants are already emphasizing that how important it is that the mutual inclusion of all kinds of data should be made available for generating the advanced next generation technologies like AI, IOT and ML. But these advancements are supposed to make our lives easy and if the process of developing them has so much cost to pay that they are depriving us of our privacy then they might ask for more when they will need further enhancement or maintenance, only the time will tell.

15 April 2020

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