Welcome to the future where leading a private life is becoming harder than ever before. Separating healthy precaution and paranoia when it comes to privacy in the use of technology has become a herculean task. On the other hand, it seems that it is much easier for the government and these large technology corporations to collect data and track you online behavior. Developments in the tech industry have indeed made life somewhat easier and much more fun.
Can you imagine a life without the internet? Without the internet you would not even be reading this article! However, every powerful tool created by mankind has a dark side. Technology has a dark side too! These developing technologies have been used to collect vast amounts of data, the likes man has never seen before. The capability of technology has become creepy. For instance, defense giants Raytheon developed a software capable of tracking people based on their online activity on social media.
The software has an algorithm which uses the information provided by Facebook users as check-ins, latitudes and longitude attached to uploaded photos to build a picture of where a person has been, who they were with and where you might be next. Today, most cities are under surveillance. CCTV cameras have been installed in most of the streets in the name of boosting the level of security in our cities. Local and National authorities are gathering large amounts of data about its citizens.
We are living at a time in which technology is so advanced that such concepts a few years ago were only possible in sci-fi movies. In the past, tracking people was rather hard and expensive, and was so well targeted. Today, mass surveillance has become so easy through the concept of “big data.” The “big data” concept works by collecting a large amounts of data on people so as to build a systematic picture of their everyday lives and actions.
It is this concept that was previously advanced by movies in which police departments used AI systems to predict and avert crimes around their precincts. These systems analyze the collected data for ‘outliers,’ or suspicious activities to detect criminals and criminal activities. Today, these intrusive technologies are all around the world. For instance, in China, a country which has redirected its efforts to being the world’s leader in artificial intelligence, has begun trials to come up with a system of rating people according to their likelihood of committing crimes.
The system is meant to send the police preemptive warnings rating high risk behavior for police to intervene. Well, this might seem cool. But, wouldn’t this create a culture of surveillance in our world. There would be no privacy at all. Some might say that, “If you have nothing to hide you, you have nothing to fear.” But are we really willing to give up our privacy? And who knows, these technologies might be used to oppress some innocent people around the world.
In fact, such intrusive technologies would be very beneficial to draconian governments around the world as witnessed during the Middle East Uprisings and countries with extreme internet censorship and monitoring such as China. The experience of being surveilled seems so commonplace owing to the fact that we are so used to CCTV cameras, virtually everywhere. We have never complained of breech of privacy due to these cameras.
In fact, some of us tend to avoid streets without CCTV cameras due to security reasons! However, the issue is that with AI systems in place, you can be identified in real-time. It is easy to believe that AI systems are good for us but take a moment to wonder, what if the system fail and give wrong output. How many people might suffer due to the indiscretions of the systems. Who will be held accountable for the conviction made owing to system failures.
What if an official with a grudge against a fellow citizen gets hold of the system? Wouldn’t people use the systems for blackmail? I mean, something as simple as a skive from work, using the wrong bins, anything! Every person has something that somebody else can use against them. We could think that with good privacy setting on our devices and apps we can protect ourselves from these intrusions.
We can think that we are too smart and self-aware to be caught, such systems can only affect “other” people. But take a moment to think. Do you trust every one of your friends to set up their privacy settings? Your granddad? Your grandma? Your mum? Do they know how to get rid of location data from those gorgeous selfies you took together before tagging you on social media? Well, our privacy is defined by our weakest points. But what about the data collected from the cameras in supermarkets? Do you think you can evade them too? Are you comfortable with the vast amount of data being collected on you?