In March 2018, Dylan Currant downloaded his own information stored by Google and Facebook. Google stored 5.5GB worth of data on him, which is equivalent to 3 million Word documents, while Facebook has roughly 600 MB, about 400,000 Word documents. Currant discovered that the two companies do not only store information about him that passes through their servers, they also track the messages he sends and receives, and they have access to his contacts, his files, and even his camera and microphone.
To download your own data, make sure to go visit Currant’s original article published by The Guardian (see below this article).
Why It Matters
What is the implication of this discovery for us, modern humans? For one, it essentially means that if you are using an Android phone, or have Facebook installed on your phone, then you can say goodbye to privacy.
Ever wondered why an Android phone is so much cheaper than an iPhone? Or why Facebook never charges for its services? It is because their main source of income is not the money you pay for the product. Rather, it is the data that you so willingly offer them. By purchasing an Android phone and installing Facebook, you are allowing these companies access to your life, hence allowing them to provide a more complete picture of who you are as a person, which then enables them and their advertisers to manipulate your future choices. Ever wondered why you are starting to get ads about an event a friend just told you about? If you had your phone nearby during that conversation, then you know the answer.
While both Google and Facebook utilizes your data for creating an advertising profile about you, there is a greater danger here that remains undiscussed. What happens when the government utilizes this data to determine who among its citizens are prone to initiating and supporting dissent?
Indeed, if Edward Snowden is to be believed, the US government has already done this. But what if this technology is used to monitor your every move? What if used in conjunction with other technologies, the government utilizes this to make pre-emptive arrests? What if it is used to determine who gets to migrate to a country, and who gets denied entry? [See article We Cannot Use AI For Extreme Vetting to know how the Trump administration planned to use AI in the immigration process.]
Some say there’s nothing to worry about if you are a law abiding citizen. And yet, we know of technologies that hijack our brains. These exist precisely because their creators have access to all the choices we make. And while Google and Facebook says that you control who has access to your entire data (because you can only see it if you are logged in to your account), what can happen if your account is hacked?
If companies are able to affect our future choices, and hackers can possibly take over our entire life, what then becomes of freedom? How can we know whether we are truly free in our choices? How can we truly own the decisions we make?
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