29 Jul 2016

Juggling with data

Nowadays it’s hard to imagine not being able to log into apps and online services using a Facebook or Google account. With PayPal payments available in local coffee shops and Apple Pay allowing the exchange of money using a smartphone, it’s hard not to notice the obvious benefits of sharing data.

Along with multiple perks, such as saving loads of time and effort, comes a variety of concerns. As much as we love saving our accounts’ details and browsers remembering our cards, once we realise how much we’re giving out, there comes a question: are we actually okay with this?

According to recent research: not exactly.

A study conducted by Lovie and Webby Awards showed that 85% of respondents from the Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, and 68% of respondents from the average American population aged 18+ believe the government surveillance will eliminate any expectation of personal privacy.

This falls in line with Amaze One’s survey results, where a quarter of UK adults’ felt unaware of the ways their data is being handled. 69% did not feel in control of their data being collected, handled, and shared, and 72% presented concerns regarding it.

So have we traded control over our personal information for various rewards? 

According to Amaze One, people aren’t willing to give out their data in exchange for the prospect of an enhanced service. They’d rather share it if they did remain in control. Control of deleting it, or if at least it’s handling was transparent.

Why is it out there then? Why do we receive personalised offers? Messages from various suppliers we’ve never even heard of calling us by our names?

We want to be part of the new digital age, downloading new apps and signing up to new services, but by doing this we have shown our hand. In order to have access to them we agree to the terms and conditions without reading them and the only thing that matters to us is making sure that the programme can’t post in our name.

Following the huge release of Pokemon Go there have been many allegations regarding its access to emails. Most of them, however, focused not on the handling of personal information and access to received messages, but fears that the app will be able to send those from users’ accounts. Although it’s been solved now, we’ve had our moment of fear. Did it stop us from downloading the game? Of course not.

Social pressure in this case is much stronger than our common sense. Although 58% of Amaze One’s respondents rejected the statement ‘sharing personal data is necessary part of their modern economy’, chances are they still do.

So what happens now? We can either accept the consecutive ‘loss’ of privacy, hoping that at some point a line will be drawn and boundries will be set by managing institutions, or lock ourselves in a warehouse filled with old computers and access to worldwide monitoring. Just like Gene Hackman in the Enemy of the State. Take the lesson.