The other side of digital progress, you have no more privacy

by Rudi Gabriel Bedy

You, yes you, you are the one I am talking to. I know everything about you, I know everyone you know, I know what you did your entire life, I know what you enjoy and what you hate.

I know where you are now but I also know what you did several minutes ago, I know how much you walked, I know how much you drove your car, I know your favorite coffee, I know your favorite music, movies and books, I know where you live and work, I know where you parked your car, I know all your passwords, I know what you do for a living and I can definitely see you now and tell what you feel when reading this sentence. Continue to read, because I know you will like it.

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We began going  into this direction where we lose all our privacy several years ago, we cannot have privacy anymore, some are still denying digital interaction for this reason. And I am not talking only about Amish people.

The interaction in the digital space, the expanding integration with the real world, the urge to keep up with everybody and the desire of companies to know much more about how individual consumers behave leaves no room for privacy. We are not far away from Sci-Fi movies, at this time people use digital in everything from money transactions to very private chats.

Who is not using Google and their services now? And if you are not using some of Google’s services, you definitely use another provider for that service and well, you never know when Google gets that company too, and with that, all your data about how you used that service too.

Let’s put it this way:

1. You are using the Google Search Engine for everything you search and want to know about, on a daily basis. There is nothing you don’t search on Google, being it something which you would be very uncomfortable to talk about or something common like what toothbrush you should buy. Everything is recorded and used, right now. Advertising is targeting you by your behavior, interests and searchers. Sometimes it also goes beyond the search engine, to you preferred websites.

2. Maybe you are one of the Gmail users and maybe you are using it very heavily. All your personal and professional discussions are there, stored. Gmail is “helping” you, by serving advertising suited to your discussions, the interests and the needs it identified. Maybe it is also making general researches on what words are most used, what people desire most, what their fears are and other stuff.

3. YouTube,  you are a uploader or just a watcher. Doesn’t matter, behavior based information is not that hard to get today. If you watch specific types of videos, it will not be hard to know what you like and what you don’t, especially when you rate or comment on videos. By uploading it’s almost the same, video can be automatically analyzed: voice, images, description, title. If it’s a video with you and your friends or family, then it would also be possible to name the faces based on your photos or your friends photos.

4. Google Maps, you might have used it to check for a street, to check how to get somewhere, to check where to eat or drink, you might also used it to rate some places. Based on this, they can optimize what places you like, what you visited already, how much you enjoyed it, how often you visit the place, what people you are going with. Basically it can know what you do your entire day.

5. Google+ was a nice move by the mother ship, they had data on people but not enough. They could see you landed on a webpage if it had ADs on it, but now with the +1 button which also improves ranking for those pages it’s easier and it can also tell if you liked that content. Then maybe know your preferences of what you like? Well, expanding it to the Google+ profile page, you will have people in different named circles and other people will have you in their circles, in special named circles. You will post things and it will see what you are most interested in, because you are not going to post everything you like, just important stuff. It will also see how your friends react. See where I am going? It will know your preferences for things and your friends preferences and you family preferences.

6. Android, why not, they have to  know what you do when you are not at the computer. They got all this astonishing data till now, from the services I talked about, but there is something missing, you are not staying your entire day on the PC, right? But you have your phone with you, with which you do all the above mentioned stuff. The best thing is that Smartphones now have those cool functions like mobile internet, GPS, two-faced cameras, lots of apps and more. So, yeah, now they can know where you are the entire day and add some valuable observations to the data they gathered trough the other services. What? Well, they can see where you are, what you do, what music you are listening in transit, what route you prefer and in some time it could also interpret your facial expressions.

7. The Fraunhofer Institute has developed a software which analyzes faces, if they are happy, sad, expecting something and other things. This development implemented into digital devices, used into analyzing pictures and videos could change the interaction with the digital space. As said in the beginning, it can get to “I know how you feel when reading this sentence”.

8. Facebook user, you are one right? You must be one considering the number of users world-wide. Facebook is similar to Google+ in terms of the data it gathers, but it gets more data. Everybody integrated it everywhere already, we can see apps which identify you trough a camera at your preferred Pub and the bartender servers you your most desired drink with a discount automatically. They know what brands you like, they know what seems funny to you, they know what you post and who your family members are, they know your important life events, they know what devices you use, where you are, exactly where you live.

9. Like the social networks in the previous points, we should also include Twitter. There it goes, a lot of information, all the time, very precise information, very easy to interpret, with a location and time stamp. So, you are staying late in the night on the internet and you like to watch that movie with your friends @xxx and @yyy? Nice intelligence. Ohhh and you are jogging this morning, yeeey, burglars are happy for this information, they really thank you. But more happy about information is the company providing the service, they can serve you very targeted ads.

10. Linkedin, you are professional and you need connections, that’s why you fill your profile with information like your education, your achievements, your skills, your languages, your jobs and what you did there. You try to do as much and as better connections as possible. This covers your professional life.

11. Google Analytics, is on almost all websites. It’s a good tool for the website owner to see what content works best and how the website performs, but the info is not for free. Google gets also to use the information about your visitors.

Examples can continue, there are tons of social websites and they are all tracking you. Think a moment, there is also a lot and more accurate of data about you in the databases of Governments. I am not trying to make this a Halloween story, it’s just what happens. You can choose to behave like the guys I told you earlier about who try to deny digital development or just ignore that there is this black part of digital.

There is a lot of information about you, looking at all those places where data is collected, but for now it’s not all in one place. Google already uses social platforms data for their search engine, there is nothing unimaginable that all this data will be put together somewhere in the future for the benefit of companies but also in some ways for the benefits of consumers.

And when this happens we should also look at how this big and good database would integrate with the databases of Governments which are more accurate. It already sounds like a Science Fiction movie, right? Well, some old SF movies are now reality.

We are heading into a world that is  digital dependent  which in some ways is beneficial but in the same time very dangerous. Why is that? Imagine your personal information deleted from the database, identity and belongings, with no way to recover because there is no offline version of anything. Imagine being watched at your every step, having no privacy.