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January 17, 2020

Benjamin Franklin once said: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." But if he were living nowadays, Franklin’s quote could be: “Those who would give up essential Privacy, to purchase a little temporary Convenience, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Indeed, since the boom of the Internet in the 2000s, companies have collected massive amounts of information on users. And, actually, users have given away personal data by not reading the privacy terms of contracts, downloading apps without checking what they can access, even by posting daily activities on social media (and consequently revealing where they are, their likes and dislikes, even who their lovers/parents/friends/children/pets/bosses/colleagues [delete as appropriate] are).

The great hack’, a documentary examining the Cambridge Analytica scandal, puts forward how Artificial Intelligence has been successfully used to show one sided content on social media threads by betting on the fact that people won’t seek information themselves, or look for other opinions to challenge the ideas and beliefs. You may be less likely to like or share the post of a friend on social media after watching it.

Yes, companies shouldn’t be allowed to collect, sell or use personal data without the full knowledge and consent of their owners. Yes, GDPR and other regulations are in force to deal with this but, honestly, who really goes through the preferences for each website they visit to check the data collection?

For convenience, are we willingly giving up on privacy for a brief moment of entertainment, fun and practicality? For years, we did not know the extent of the use of our data, and probably still turn a blind eye to it because it seems so intangible and too late. But it is not.

Digital detox and low-tech movements are currently trendy because some people feel they must take back their privacy. It’s a notable reminder to be much more careful about the kind of information we share online, with whom and why and to challenge our knowledge by seeing the world not only through social media. It is our responsibility to remain the complete decision maker of our own thinking – without the sole influence of our timeline.

 

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