Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Who owns your data? Protecting your identity means a robust regulation of Facebook, Google, Twitter and social media ... by gimleteye

The more I read about the "free" flow of social media platforms as unpaid political advertisements, incorporating steady messaging meant to trigger the WORST of human nature, the more angry I am at elected officials who have literally been asleep at the wheel as democracy -- not to mention individual rights -- was hijacked by corporations that only existed in the imagination of a few entrepreneurs a decade ago.

Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media platforms have created their own ecosystems that wrap us up in a cash money embrace, exclusive of any moral responsibility to fairness and balance in the public square: the world wide web.

Provably, they have invented business models based on your browsing history to target political advertisements with DISASTROUS results. These have mainly accrued to the benefit of a few oligarchs who are, themselves, as transnational as their social media empires. Facebook, Twitter, and Google stand at the top.

You SHOULD be furious.

Congressional committees are "investigating" the role of social media in the 2016 election. Thanks to solid reporting (UK Guardian leads the way), the outlines of the impact on democracy are coming clear. Whether voters and taxpayers are educated enough to navigate the complexity of digital interference in our constitutional rights is very much up in the air.

Don't be distracted by an inconsequential president who cries FAKE NEWS at the drop of a penny. To Trump, FAKE NEWS is anything he disagrees with, subject to change at any time. What Trump represents is an urge to MANIPULATE media to serve any cause that strikes his imagination, at any time.

Donald Trump wants to be a social media platform, a cyborg with enough chips on his shoulder to sink the world.

It is important to recognize the scale of this threat is both vast and particular to your online identity at the same time. Congress needs to tighten the screws down on both the capturing of social media platforms -- by recognizing these are in fact PUBLIC UTILITIES -- and the right of individuals to protect their own data from being harnessed by social media platforms, for sale to the highest bidder.

This is serious business, folks, it is political and needs action now.

Let’s take back control of our data – it’s too precious to leave to the tech giants
Ravi Naik, UK Guardian
Everything we do online leaves a trail. To hold power to account in the digital age, what is required is nothing less than a new civil rights movement

Data-sets feed the opaque algorithms that shape the cyber world we see and interact with. Yet that data concerns the most basic tenets of who we are.’
Tuesday 3 October 2017 10.28 EDTLast modified on Tuesday 3 October 2017 11.15 EDT

“Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us.” Thus, in 1996, John Perry Barlow laid out his manifesto, the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, in which he encapsulated a philosophy flowing through the heart of worldwide web. His was a vision that would come to dominate the internet today, a thread that went from Timothy Leary to Stewart Brand to Steve Jobs to our current tech giants.

Such is the dominance of this philosophy that it has spawned a new creed, “dataism”. The central principle of this dogma is the free flow of data, unrestricted and unregulated. This libertarian view of information uniquely sought to attach freedom to a concept – the flow of information – rather than to a human liberty. It provided the ideological architecture for the internet that we know today – ubiquitous and pervasive, that leaves a data trail in its wake.

Almost everything we do – keeping in touch, online shopping, watching television – leaves a data trail. The resulting data-sets feed the opaque algorithms that shape the cyber world we see and interact with. Yet that data concerns our personal information – the most basic tenets of who we are. While these algorithms become ever more powerful – some say even able to detect our sexuality with alarming accuracy – they are at the same time swallowing increasing amounts of information from us. The resulting information is then “fed into databases and assembled into profiles of unprecedented depth and specificity”.

Three of my recent cases illustrate the effect of data and profiling on our fundamental humanity – illustrating the effects on our intimate relationships, our financial security and even our democracy. Those cases also illustrate something starker; that a movement is growing to liberate data from the technological giants of our age. As data becomes akin to a new commodity, the oil of the digital age, individuals have begun to claim a stake in determining for themselves when, how and to what extent information about them is held and communicated to others.

The ability to do so is not new. Indeed, as John Perry Barlow was extolling the virtues of the liberated cyberspace, a regulatory framework was evolving at the same time. That framework is premised on a conception of fundamental rights, and the “data protection principles” – at their core: access, control and accountability. Those principles create a charter around which data is governed and protected to give individuals agency over their information. They were settled by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 1980, with the agreement of the United States. Yet while the European Union has taken the initiative and developed an increasingly sophisticated and comprehensive framework, as its most recent incarnation, the General Data Protection Regulation, shows, the United States favoured a piecemeal and ad hoc approach. The result is a hierarchy of data protection, with the US cut adrift from the EU.

The instinctive reaction when faced with the power of data is to wonder what can be done, given the necessity of technology in our modern lives. However, the data protection framework shows that we do not have to live in a world where decisions are made about us and our lives indelibly marked without our knowledge or consent. We would not tolerate such a stance in any other walk of life and we have a regulatory framework to allow us to exercise control and forge recalibrated relationships with those who seek to use and profit from our data.

Through citizen activism, we can bring cases to challenge these practices and set standards by which data is respected. In addition, technology, services and campaigns have been launched to seek to understand the use of data and reclaim it. The ability to access and control data can have a tangible affect, including on our democratic process itself.

This is not to question the importance of technological advances. The digital revolution and the use of data have given us tremendous benefits. Rather, we need to be vigilant and active to ensure that “people’s fundamental privacy rights are not sacrificed in the name of innovation”. Those rights have too often been ignored, and it is taking a groundswell of citizen activism to flip the script and hold power to account by individuals asking for their data and determining its use. We are at a watershed moment of a citizen-led demand for data rights, with the hallmarks of a new civil rights movement enmeshed within it. However, the efficacy of any laws depends on individuals relying on them. The gift is in your hands. This is your data; these are your rights.

• Ravi Naik is a solicitor and partner at Irvine Thanvi Natas Solicitors, where he heads the public law department


Geniusofdespair said...

This should be part of all campaign platforms "data safety" but no one gives a shit unless they are personally involved.

Anonymous said...

Many other program/apps want to download my Facebook friends list if I sign in with Facebook. I refuse but how many of my friends don't stop to think of the implications for their friends? Why does your doctor need your social security number?