Data privacy and protection was a major topic of Arabnet’s 10th edition in Beirut, on June 12-13. Communicate Levant sat with speaker Nicholas Oliver, a data-conscientiousness advocate and CEO of People.io, an app that allows consumers to license their personal data in exchange for credits that can be redeemed against various digital services like music streaming – its motto is: “Stick it to Facebook. Your data. Your value.”
According to Oliver, it is incredibly ridiculous that today’s “anonymous” data protection systems are flawed at their core. Here’s why.
Privacy Consent is Dead
During his keynote address, Oliver used dating app Tinder as an example for the current paradox. “Tinder, at the moment, requires you to say: ‘I am X years old, this gender, based in this location’; and your ability to control the outbound information gives you the ability to control how it is used by Tinder,” he explained. “However, with machine learning, upload a photo, and now they don’t need to ask you these questions, because the machine learning algorithm is trained to automatically detect this information.”
Moreover, the use of encryption for data is also flawed: “Tinder collects data on who you’ve swiped left or right on”, which is used to fuel what your interests are so that “ultimately, Tinder knows who you love or hate,” said Oliver.
It’s clear that consent to data collection, in this case, is “dead”.
Oliver isn’t alone talking about data privacy. In 2017, an article titled “Privacy Paradox” was posted on Medium showing how data consent and data privacy are fundamentally hard to achieve since, just like Oliver tells Communicate Levant, there is no clear legal or technical way to protect yourself from data collection. “If you are using [a non-data collection web searcher such as] DuckDuckGo.com to search for something on, let’s say Chrome, Google has your data or Safari, now Apple has your data.”
The Year of Data Privacy
Both Apple and Google said 2018-2019 is the Data Privacy year at their developer conferences. And Oliver agrees that “Apple had a large advert saying, ‘Everything on Your iPhone, Stays on your iPhone.” However, he adds, “let’s not forget that iCloud has been hacked a dozen times, and that’s your iPhone’s data on it.”
As for the more controversial data collection companies such as Facebook and Twitter, Oliver says that when the stream of data privacy lawsuits and regulations started last year, “Twitter gave you a clear and simple answer on how your data will be used, unlike Facebook’s millions of popups on each page, and Google’s prompt when you wanted to search; you are going to accept it no matter the cost, because you went on Google to search!”
Is it Too Late to Say “My Data”?
So, if data privacy is dead or on the brink of extinction, what is one to do to prevent this blatant abuse? Well, for starters, if you have been a long-time Internet user, it is too late to secure the data that you have already shared. However, browsers and tools like Tor and DuckDuckGo don’t collect your data and are just as reliable as Chrome and Google.