Brainstorming possibilities for a design response [POST 8]

The aim of the brainstorming session was to gain a better understanding of the issue by further analysing the topic and current problems, to then think about possible solutions. Below is an analysis of the outcomes:

 

ISSUE

What: big data/online privacy/breach of human and civil rights. Where: globally. Why: To collect data for governments and companies. How: Through political and legal manoeuvres that frame invasive methods of data collection as legal and acceptable. Who: Governments and companies versus population.

 

PROBLEMS

– How data is collected? Some of the ways data has been collected can result in a breach of human rights such as: privacy. In 1950, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights declared privacy as basic human right.

– How data is stored? We have no idea of how the data that is being collected about us is stored. For example, according to CNN, a few days ago Russian hackers stole medical records of several American athletes including Venus Williams and Simone Biles. It is hard for a population to monitor or keep track of how the digital world is operating. As data hackers are a reality in an era where information is everything and data collection doesn’t seem to be slowing down or be near to ceasing, we need to be assured that our data – many times collected without our consent – is safely stored. In some cases, we might even get fined for not providing data to the government, but what happens to them if they let other companies steal our data from them? Also, due to the intangible properties of data, it is really easy for governments and companies to trade data and then blame hackers for the leak of sensitive information. We will never know the truth about cases like that, and that is a big problem. Once our data is online, it is gone. It is impossible for the general population to keep track of it. The Internet belongs to nobody. Yes, that is the beauty of it but when it comes to big data, it can be really dangerous.

– The data market. Companies trade our data without our consent or awareness. We have no idea of who will have access to our data in the future.

– Lack of transparency from companies and the government regarding data collection.

– Lack of choice/options for users and general population. Many times we are forced to provide information to companies and governments because there might not be other option. For example, if companies have no competition, they can shape their terms and conditions according to their interests because they know they won’t lose customers. Another example is the Census, why should we get fined for not providing information that they already know? Many of the answers for Census’ questions can be obtained by integrating data that the government already has about me. Also, where is our freedom of choice? Some people just believe they shouldn’t be forced to fill out any piece of paper with personal information.

– Websites terms and conditions’ sections are way too long and, many times, too complicated to understand unless you are a lawyer.

– Data has no use by date. We don’t know how long our data will be stored for or who will access it in the future.

– Big data can generate unwanted consequences for people, for example targeted advertisement.

– People don’t really care about online privacy. 5 years ago in America, 60% of the adult population claimed that cared about privacy, however they would barely lift a finger in an effort to preserve it (NBC News 2011). The 40% left are divided between those who don’t care at all about online privacy and those who care and would go through some trouble to avoid sharing information with companies and government.

 

SOLUTIONS

  1. Educate people about: legislation regarding data retention and how it can compromise their rights; how the data that has been collected can eventually affect or be used against them in the future; and how companies and governments trade our data. Make people perceive big data as a problem instead of as a beneficial thing.
  2. Competition: increase competition in industries where a few companies hold a monopoly (e.g. Google). Give users choice.
  3. Transparency. Through strengthening of public option towards the dangers of big data, force companies to become more transparent with consumers in regards to the data they are collecting.
  4. Boycott companies that: are not transparent with consumers or that request invasive personal information for exchange of services.
  5. Safer Wi-Fi connections to avoid data being stolen from devices that are hacked into.

 

THE PROPOSAL [DRAFT]

Throughout the semester, while researching about online privacy, I realised that there are many great software and apps that assist users to use the Internet anonymously. Examples of those are message encryptors, ghost-email providers and secure file-sharing platforms. However these apps and programmes are definitely not widely popular among users, many times due to the fact that they are all created and hosted by different companies or websites. Having said that, I identified the need for a mobile app that will serve as an informative platform for online privacy and a guide for available apps. The app aims to unite users against mass surveillance and educate them on available methods to ensure anonymity while online. The app will provide information and news related to online privacy as well as links to download existing apps.

 

References

CNN 2016, Hackers steal medical data of US Olympic starts, viewed 17 September 2016, <http://money.cnn.com/2016/09/13/news/wada-hacked-russian-spies/&gt;

Lifehacker 2012, Everyone’s trying to track what you do on the web. Here’s how to stop them, viewed 13 September 2016, <http://lifehacker.com/5887140/everyones-trying-to-track-what-you-do-on-the-web-heres-how-to-stop-them&gt;

Lifehacker 2012, Why you should care about and defend your privacy, viewed 13 September 2016, <http://lifehacker.com/5904966/why-you-should-care-about-and-defend-your-privacy&gt;

NBC News 2011, Why should I care about digital privacy?, viewed 13 September 2016, <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41995926/ns/technology_and_science/t/why-should-i-care-about-digital-privacy/#.V9eA9JN95Bw&gt;

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