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Data, not privacy, is the real danger

Published: February 10, 2019
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Source: Slash Dot

"While it's creepy to imagine companies are listening in to your conversations, it's perhaps more creepy that they can predict what you're talking about without actually listening," writes an NBC News technology correspondent, arguing that data, not privacy, is the real danger.
 
Your data -- the abstract portrait of who you are, and, more importantly, of who you are compared to other people -- is your real vulnerability when it comes to the companies that make money offering ostensibly free services to millions of people. Not because your data will compromise your personal identity. But because it will compromise your personal autonomy. "Privacy as we normally think of it doesn't matter," said Aza Raskin, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology [and a former Mozilla team leader]. "What these companies are doing is building little models, little avatars, little voodoo dolls of you. Your doll sits in the cloud, and they'll throw 100,000 videos at it to see what's effective to get you to stick around, or what ad with what messaging is uniquely good at getting you to do something...."

With 2.3 billion users, "Facebook has one of these models for one out of every four humans on earth. Every country, culture, behavior type, socio-economic background," said Raskin. With those models, and endless simulations, the company can predict your interests and intentions before you even know them.... Without having to attach your name or address to your data profile, a company can nonetheless compare you to other people who have exhibited similar online behavior...
 
A professor at Columbia law school decries the concentrated power of social media as "a single point of failure for democracy." But the article also warns about the dangers of health-related data collected from smartwatches. "How will people accidentally cursed with the wrong data profile get affordable insurance?"

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