A further discussion about data and the key issue of who should have access. During a recent lunch, we talked about how Chinese citizens allow the government to see all of their digital footprint via Tencent and Alibaba, but they do this for a number of reasons. The advantage of an easy lifestyle superapps and the knowledge that the government is watching. It’s a quid pro quo.
And this is the core point: no one gives up their privacy for nothing. That’s a dictatorship. If you have zero privacy of your data and you get nothing back, that is data abuse.
Here, it gets interesting as, in the USA, folks give up their data to Facebook and Google but, in return, they get back free media and free answers. That’s the quid pro quo. However, how much of that data is trawled by the NSA, America’s National Security Agency. According to Edward Snowden, the contractor who leaked that the NSA knows everything:
“If we learned anything from 2013, it’s that eventually, everything leaks.”
Speaking at Web Summit last month, he criticised internet giants Google, Amazon, and Facebook for the ‘abuse’ of personal data and argues people need to understand the privacy threat against them.
Now he believes tech companies are the ones to blame for the misuse of data, claiming they make populations vulnerable by collecting personal data which they then make available to governments in a ‘Faustian bargain’ or ‘deal with the devil’.
“These people are engaged in abuse, particularly when you look at Google and Amazon, Facebook and their business model. And yet every bit of it, they argue, is legal. Whether we’re talking about Facebook or the NSA, we have legalised the abuse of the person through the personal.”
Snowden called for the redesign of the internet’s fundamentals so that people are not asked to trust and disclose so much information to every company they interact with online, adding that “we are the only thing that can protect us”.
Now I agree with some of that sentiment. We are the only ones who can protect ourselves. However, that’s hard when most people don’t read the T’s & C’s. I still remember fondly the April Fool where a gaming firm put a line their terms and conditions that by agreeing to use their software they had the right to sell your soul.
“By placing an order via this Web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant Us a non-transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from gamesation.co.uk or one of its duly authorised minions.”
No one cared. They all clicked. It’s a quid pro quo that does not work. You get the entertainment, you get the connectivity, you get the content, you get the answers … but what you don’t get is the protection.
In fact, in many ways, I would rather be in the Chinese system where at least I know who’s watching. In the Western system of America and Europe, we blindly provide our data to service providers who we have no idea what they’re going to do with it or who’s going to be using it. That’s not a quid pro quo.