"Let's Talk: Human Data"

Imagine you have a friend starting a business.

They come to you asking for help and advice which you give, of course. The advice you give them ends up being the key to their success and their company skyrockets, doing amazingly well. After they became successful you hear less and less from them; did they forget what you did for them? You never see a dime for your contributions, and you’re left with an icky feeling that your friend just used you.

Was what you told them worth anything? In the long run it would feel like, yes, you directly affected the outcome of their business with your information! This is exactly how a lot of modern businesses use our data to profit off our usage. Your basic information is used for marketing and research demographics by companies like Google and Facebook, and that info can then be sold to the highest bidder.

Realize that every action you take online, every page you read, every tab you open, can be observed and tracked. This isn't about the government tracking you, it’s about how companies are using your information to profit. The problem is that tech companies and data analytics teams are able to see what you do and then use that to their benefit. They can see your age, gender, location, and habits then use that info to make their product or service better. Yes, a better product sounds better for everybody, and it didn't necessarily hurt you to give them that information. Yet, I still feel that same icky feeling that I was used just for my information and data but have nothing to show for it. If you take a survey or participate in a focus group you’d expect something for your time, but this isn’t the case when it comes to data.

Data can be pulled right from under your nose.

A typical internet browsing scenario for me begins with my clicking a link I find interesting. I'm brought to a page with an article I want to read but the whole time I’m being bombarded with advertisements. There are literally millions of different products online but all of these seem sort of relevant to me. Some websites I won't even bother with, since navigating can be such a pain. The reality is that everytime your eyes fall on an ad, that information is valuable and the company presenting it makes money off your view, regardless.

Your data is worth something, and it’s being taken from you whether you like it or not. I truly believe that the right to data privacy is a human right. Most people don’t have anything to hide, but it's more about the fact that you don't have the opportunity to consent. The fact that nobody truly has control over their personal data is pretty alarming, and it’s time for us to take ownership of our personal information. With only a few internet service providers out there, it makes you wonder. We exist in a data feedback loop where we are constantly feeding the very corporations that are taking your information. The only way things will get better is if the rules are put in place. There is hardly any focus on these problems within our legal system; we don’t even have a greater authority who can regulate such things. I wish our government would wake up and stop trying to paint over these kinds of issues.

We live in a digital world and your digital identity is worth something. This, everybody should be aware of.

With love,
Kai

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