Home > Data Privacy > Can A Faraday’s Cage In Today’s Digital Age Safeguard Our Privacy?

Can A Faraday’s Cage In Today’s Digital Age Safeguard Our Privacy?

1 Introduction

We all grew up learning from experiments and observations, making sure that we learn and understand things with interaction. In India, we are more familiar with cricket and football than lawn-tennis or golf, or we all learn our mother tongue by being exposed to it. Imagine me having exposure to only indoor variety of games, would I develop a taste for outdoor games like cricket or football? This learning by exposure is also equally easily applicable on food, religion, language and other habits, which define a person, his thoughts and his habits. The larger question is whether we can weave a new habit without having an exposure. How do we know what we don’t know when our choices to know are restricted.

In the increasing digital market of trans-boundary content, goods and services, the choices for us are often made by a super intelligent, biased algorithm, backed by immense computing power specifically designed to detect tastes of sports, food, music, living lifestyle, depending on the way we have used our smartphones, connected devices, location shares, search strings and photographs. We are aware that our browsers use cookies and trackers, and have ability to smartly direct us to the algorithm chosen choices. I would like to imagine a situation where our actions, emotions and urge to know is not used against us by directing us to content which fills up the void of our search with content that has been tailored to make us feel happy.

This leads to a question whether we exercise the choices we actually want to exercise, or do we just go by the flow of algorithms to let it determine what we should experience? This is the question for today which has implications on how the global economy sustains and caters to its users.

2 Generation of Data

The modern discussion over privacy has been a resultant of the increasing use of data posting by gullible users (70% of them are below age of 351) using smartphones2, social media, digital records, and knowing individuals as a customer. The ‘personal data’ has been closely linked with identification of an individual either directly or indirectly. Given that all readers are using devices connected to a connected network, it is estimated that by 2020, 3.4 devices per capita will be connected to the online network collectively generating and handling ∼2.3 ZB3 of data4. Data is often volunteered to be disclosed like name, contact details, or is observed as during browsing or purchasing, or is stealthily observed in the background like location. It is inevitable that the future beholds that the generation of data will keep increasing in geometric progression with better access to connectivity and convenience.

It is also equally true that some of the world’s largest companies like Alphabet generate around 85% of their global revenues (∼$ 136 Billion) from advertisement using search platforms like Google, content aggregators like YouTube, Google Maps and hardware. Similarly, Facebook revenue from advertisement has risen sharply. This has virtually created an oligopoly in the advertisement industry.

With such vast amount of data getting generated, it is important that ethical and acceptable practices are followed by the data collectors/controllers, or by data processors/aggregators and third-party data handlers. The user (data generators) should be self-aware and explicitly informed about the way the personal, transactional or behavioral data is used, and hence a regulated practice should be followed for those who are constantly monitoring the data and purpose for which the data is retained and used. As more and more activities move online, where people will research, shop and find product recommendations, the importance of privacy and data protection will increasingly be recognized especially when the current system for data protection is highly fragmented, with divergent regulatory approaches for global and national practices.

Personal information is often shared by people freely, and without giving a secondary consideration. A mobile phone number is almost becoming necessary to procure anything, and the most likely reason is for the person to come back to the store. In-fact a lot of inputs like birthdate, anniversary, residence and office address, handwriting, signatures are often collected in name of the visitor log/comments books. In India, the government agencies also collect a lot of data, which at times is often used in silos and remains non-aggregated. India witnesses a high incidence of data breaches (as per a report in 2018 it was ∼35% of overall data breaches of the world)5 as we currently do not have safe data security practices for both online and offline access to data. Data breach by insiders (employees or 3rd party vendors) with an access to data is often a significant risk as the data collectors find it increasingly difficult to find bandwidth and resources to maintain adequate data security measures.

31 ZB = 1billion TBs= 1trillion GBs. Each ZB is estimated at $100 Trillion.
4Supra Note
5Monitor-Deloitte Report, 2018

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