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You’re just a Data Point in A Sea of Data #TSOA – Edition Three

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The year is 2040, you turn on your brand new Apple branded neural interface to quickly find out what’s going on with the world. Bitcoin dropped from 77,000 to 70,000. Donald Trump fails to get impeached for the 69th time, while still refusing to leave office and Apple announces they are re-introducing the headphone jack.

You see a small notification on the corner stating that your societal credit score has fallen by ten points due to internet searches that were deemed ‘’non conformative’’.  You realize if you score drops anymore you will be penalized by not being able to purchase toilet paper for a month. Another notification pops up and says your societal credit score has fallen by six points for purchasing Ripple.

You sigh and prepare for a horrible month ahead, while wondering what else will you be barred from. You wonder how the government and system knows what you’ve been doing. You then look at the box of the neural interface and realize that was a stupid question.

Readers don’t be alarmed, we are still in control, some control and for now, at least. It’s still 2019 and Donald Trump is still president. Some things don’t change. While the above scenario is purely a hypothetical scenario, such mass data collection and surveillance is already in place and in use; cue Black Mirror.

Nosedive, Black Mirror, Crypto
“Nosedive” Series 3 Episode 1 of Black Mirror saw a social rankings system in place

In China, the government has already implemented a system which scores residents based on behaviour and interaction with society. Jay-walking, not paying bills on time and trivial things such as not tipping can lead to a lower score, which can have real world consequences such as higher interest rates, slower internet, or if you are a bad boy/girl you win the grand prize of being barred from travelling. I can hear the wanderlust Crypto Traders/Travellers screaming using their inside voice.

While it’s true that currently China is the only country doing this (note, this is only for a specific region in China also) many other countries are debating over the use of such technology. Most of the infrastructure is already there. AI based facial recognition, real-time tracking, purchase history based analytics. Most of it is there, but still to be implemented. So there is still some hope. 

Now if you haven’t stained your tidy whities yet, I suggest you prepare yourself. There will be enough data collected about you as a person to create a semi accurate representation of you in the virtual world and given enough time the physical world. Familiar with Deep Fakes? Imagine when all this data collected about you can amalgamated hyper accurately. Scary right ?

You may be asking yourself where does all this data come from? Here is how it works in a nutshell. Everything you do online, every action, click, time spent is tracked, collated, analyzed and added into a “target segment” and then sold to other companies, with a large chunk of it going to advertisers, to show you junk ads and re-target you, in-hope of getting you to click through. Cookies are one of the main methods of tracking user behaviours, for example whether you saved a specific preference such as day mode or night mode on a website.

Nosedive, Black Mirror, Crypto
China are already using technology to track their citizens

The reality is there are very few things we can do to help mitigate against such vast data collection, one of the more prevalent methods is to install an ad blocker, and send “do not track “ requests. The use of VPN’s such as TOR and data anonymizers also helps.  A quick Google search will come up with additional suitable ways to ensure you’re always wearing a condom when online.

A potential way for lowering the amount of data collected is by going after medium, i.e. websites, applications and interfaces, if publishers did not rely so heavily on ads, less data would be collected, albeit still collected and probably used for other purposes. Another way is to target the source, i.e. you and me. There are blockchain projects out there that are empowering users to take control and even monetize their data. While a novel concept, it is yet to take off. 

The key takeaway here is that you, as an individual, should be taking steps to both protect your data and yourself online, while doing your bit to keep big companies in check. Every bit helps – Raise your concern online about shady practises or support people and companies looking to help protect your data and offer alternatives.

References

https://privacyinternational.org/long-read/2433/i-asked-online-tracking-company-all-my-data-and-heres-what-i-found

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Credit_System

https://medium.com/jsk-class-of-2019/six-lessons-from-my-deepfake-research-at-stanford-1666594a8e50

The State Of Advertising is a weekly address that discusses the digital advertising landscape and the problems that lie within it, and how blockchain is helping to solve it. The weekly series is co-authored by Alex Libertas from the Daily Chain, and Reggie from Gath3r

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