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Your data is everybody’s business

  • Published at 11:52 am November 13th, 2018
Stealing is stealing BIGSTOCK

Storing our data without our consent is a form of stealing

Years ago, a global company delivered a surprise pregnancy kit to a 14-year-old girl’s place. Insulted, the parents demanded an explanation for the terrible assumption brought upon their young daughter. The delivery man whose responsibility was just to deliver the parcel didn’t have an answer. Later, a test proved that the girl was indeed pregnant. 

The girl didn’t scream out her condition loud. Her texts, location, and a touch of data mining were enough for the company to conclude so. 

That’s how scary it is in today’s world, where our data remains under the risk of theft and abuse. 

In the recent event of accusation of data storage against a certain local technology start-up, the face of Bangladeshi social media is once again ripe with memes. One concern that’s being continuously raised is: “Many companies already have access to our data. Why bother about this?”

Truth is -- nobody’s private data is safe. Google, Facebook, even SHAREit, everyone has access to our data. But the company in question has been accused of non-consensually storing SMS and irrelevant information that goes beyond any time-frame. 

And do you know what can be done with stored data? Anything.

From tracking you down, to selling your personal information, companies are in capacity to abuse and manipulate your data to whatever extent they desire. With the future expansion of the said organization, the power it holds on to your data will increase, resulting in a vast array of possibilities of what could happen to your information.

While the answer of the severity of any data privacy breach lies in the future, it’s safe to not wait for the worst to happen unless you want your bank to offer you some credit fund at a low-interest rate after they have looked into your alarmingly low balance.  

One of my earliest moral lessons in life from my mother was quite simple. If you find even a Tk2 note lying on the ground and you pick it up, you are stealing it. If you and everyone else pick up unsupervised Tk2 notes, all of you are stealing money. 

There is simply no other way to put it. Similarly, the fact that many tech giants are stealing our data doesn’t change and condone the local company’s act of accessing data they never asked permission for. 

On the other hand, many are likely to condone a breach of privacy by saying “My data is useless.” It is probably useless to you now. But soon, when you apply for a job, send a picture to your friend, or even open your salary account, every detail goes to the server. 

Princess Diana was killed in a car crash while fleeing from the paparazzi, who were chasing her in another vehicle at high speeds. She always had a challenge finding a private moment away from them. I shudder to think that after the automobile crash, her last living moments on this Earth might have been filled with the flashes and clicks coming from cameras. 

Our data might not kill us, but a lack of privacy dehumanizes us -- it violates the basic concept of human dignity, of the sovereignty a person has over themselves.

Daily digital interactions will grow, driven by more online interactions. What’s more, these interactions will become more automated over time, creating a life increasingly dependent on data.

You’re still probably thinking it is harmless, but consider this -- what if the server itself is hacked? Will the company take the responsibility? Does it have the capacity to prevent data leakage? 

Basically, we don’t even know, and can’t comprehend the breadth of all the decisions being made about us now, that make us better or worse off because actors making decisions have access to data, which is not transparent to us, which is not correctable, which is not controlled by us.

The fastest growing start-up has never guaranteed you that security. 

Everyone has something to hide. Everyone does something that someone somewhere in the world would hate enough to harm you. 

Your data should be your business. 

Myat Moe Khaing is a Management Trainee at a multi-national company and co-founder of Agncy, which connects workers with labour organizations.

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