You know how your phone responds when you say “Hey Siri” or “Hey Google”? It does that because it’s always hearing for your command. The only way it can possibly do that is by processing every word that you anyone else speaks when they’re in its vicinity. Imagine the amount of data that is being collected this way!
It starts off harmless…
We all see advertisements on our devices that are related to something we googled earlier in the day or week. And have you noticed that this is not just limited to the same device or the same application? If you looked something up on google on your computer, you are most likely to find promotion of the same on your Instagram stories on your mobile phone, even though your accounts are not directly connected.
Sure, they use our data, to show us what WE like, so, if anything, that’s helpful, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, that’s not true. More often than not, what we would LIKE to use is not something that is good for us. We are constantly exposed to things that would never have known about if not for this targeted advertising.
Maybe you could argue that banners on billboards and flyers that come to our houses also do the same thing, but the difference is… EVERYONE sees the same billboards and the same flyers. Your mobile phones, show totally different advertisements to you, your sister, your mom, and your dad. And in order to do this, they constantly draw your personal information, without your consent. They follow you everywhere you go, and they show advertisements even based on your current location or the people you’re around.
This tailoring of content according to your likes, dislikes, and moods, ends up creating an alternate reality for you, and this is extremely dangerous. The internet is constantly telling you what you think is right- regardless of whether or not it actually is- by showing you more and more of the same kind of content that you read or watch. Be it quotes on Instagram or political interviews on Youtube, you always hear what you want to hear, and you’re seldom shown any other point of view. What we’re all essentially getting is a very skewed view of the world, and the skew is in different directions for you and me.
Why do they do this?
The only way for any company to stay in business is to make money. In order to make money, you need to sell something. Social media applications sell their users’ attention to advertisers. They take our data and use it to link us to the companies whose products or services we are most likely to use. The value of digital advertising, globally, is over 300 billion dollars.
It’s not really anybody’s aim to exploit our data, but the business model that considers our engagement time as a product has been working. Anybody who tries to do otherwise simply fails because all the other players in the market benefit from their losses. So, if you were to start a social media company today, you would be forced to adopt these monetizing methods if you wanted to still pay your bills.
Sometimes, organizations may even respect data privacy, and not use it for anything other than the intended purpose. This is possible for healthcare or finance companies, whose main source of income is not advertising. However, even in these cases, data breaches are on the rise. These breaches could be carried out by hackers who simply want to extract money from high-profile clients. Alternatively, individuals with ulterior motives may also carry out these attacks.
It is also important to note that it is difficult to completely get rid of algorithms that companies have developed over generations. If privacy regulations are amended to allow customers to ask their data to be deleted, it is still extremely cumbersome to find that data amongst data sets that are fragmented across varied IT infrastructure.
Is there no way out, then?
Well, for starters, we could push companies to develop clear procedures to govern data transfer or data removal requests. Manual processes that are in place for data discovery and removal should be streamlined and automated. When it comes to data storage, we must make sure there’s a smaller footprint. If data is stored in fewer systems, there’s less scope for breaches.
There should be transparency about where the public’s data is being used and how. Privacy policies should have not loads of irrelevant information that buries the loopholes in data sharing policies. Moreover, apps should not make it compulsory for users to share their data.
But how long will it take for our governments to ensure data privacy compliance and make these changes a reality? And how much can we trust the process when we have nearly no way of knowing what is really going on behind the curtain? Data Privacy Day 2021 marked the 40th anniversary of Convention 108, the first-ever legally binding agreement in data protection. But if anything, we only see more and more data privacy scandals today. Wouldn’t you want to do something to protect your data from being used against you right now?
Take control over your data!
What if we told you that you could see who’s tracking you right from today, and that you can toggle a switch to decide which platforms and advertisers are permitted to do it. Ctrl.ly will do just that! And it will be completely free!
We, at Ctrl.ly, believe that it’s unfair for technology giants to control the reins, and we want to help you take them back. Yes, our salaries depend on advertising to you, but you get to pick those advertisers, too! This means that brands and platforms will have to earn your trust in order to be able to show content to you. And just like that, you go back from being the product, to being the customer!