On May 7th. 2015 a federal appeals court in New York ruled that the NSA's, the National Security Agency, mass collection of Americans' phone data is illegal. This reinvigorated the debate about surveillance and whether it violates citizens freedom, or it is needed to protect us from terror.
Since 9/11 governments around the world have intensified the surveillance of citizens data, with the official reason to protect us from terror. In 2013 the former intelligence officer and defector Edward Snowden revealed, that the NSA had collected data from millions of Americans, a number of European companies and 35 government leaders' telephone calls. With Snowdens revelations followed a new awareness amongst "netizens" around the world that our online privacy apparently no longer belongs to us. Although most people would prefer to keep their data to themselves, there are very few who can grasp the magnitude of the problem and the technical solutions that can ensure our privacy online. Many may feel that their efforts wont make a difference, and the question is whether it is too late to reclaim our digital privacy or if it is a problem that belongs to the past? For the second time within the past year, the White House tried to adopt a package of legislation called the USA Freedom Act on May 23rd, which will put an end to the illegal collection of metadata, but it blocked the Republican-dominated Senate.
DATA IS THE FOUNDATION OF DIGITAL BUSINESS MODELS
The biggest concern with the development of our digital universe, is our right to privacy and the risk of surveillance and abuse of the data we produce. Some might argue that there is no future for privacy, maybe this “right” belonged to the past, and is becoming instinct in a digital reality where you don’t exist if you can’t consume, produce and track data. We constantly produce data, when we make purchases, on social networks, when we search for information and when we contribute with content from blogs, pictures, videos to the many other channels we are a part of. Our online participation is becoming an essential foundation of our human existence. Our digital footprint will only increase in the future, with Internet of Everything from our wrist to our homes. Raw data is the foundation of digital business models. Google, Facebook, Amazon and all the other successful Internet companies are founded and prosper on data. The business models of the Internet are moving into new industries, hereunder retail, health care and finance, becoming the heart of future business. We as users produce data for free, while governments and industries control it.
The right to one's privacy as we know it from the post World Wide Web days, will probably never return. We live in a time where you can easily be excluded socially and professionally, if you do not have an active and open online profile. You may not be invited to your friends party if you're not on Facebook, and your dream job becomes more difficult to obtain if your future employer can’t find your profile on LinkedIn. But every time we act online, whether we send emails, search on Google, or purchase items online, we produce data for free that companies use to make money. This is the price we pay for using the online paradigm free, since data is the cornerstone of digital business models. Google, Facebook, Amazon and many other successful Internet companies are all built on data, and they have free reins to conquer the international marketplace. So far it is a margin of online users who are fighting for the right to their privacy and data, and neither governments nor companies have an interest in limiting their insight to our behavior.
THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN BEING PRIVATE AND PUBLIC ARE MERGING
As technology becomes increasingly integrated into our daily lives, the boundaries between digital privacy and public are merging. Data becomes even more fluid, mobile and extensive covering our activities with any kind of technology. The list of data streams is long including, emails, social media, web history, cable TV, electricity, mobile phones, Internet banking, payment, GPS and IPS, to name a few. In addition, a variety of data is flowing across private and public organizations. It is not surprising that most consumers give up on getting an overview, and turn the blind eye to the problem, because the future of our Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is complex. It does not reduce the problem that most consumers prefer convenience, as when our data is organized based on our online history. Because if you choose to be private online, your content will be generic and often irrelevant, minimizing your value of the Internet.
INTERNET OF THINGS WILL INCREASE OUR PRIVATE DATA RECORDS
We will be sharing more information about private life in the future, with Internet of Things (IoT) in our homes, in our car, on our run and all our other physical locations will be registered to an even greater extent. This will lead to Big Data, which companies can use to predict and support our needs and behavior. Through Big Data we can experience an increase in Cognitive Computing and Quantified Self, through intelligent technology that will support our daily lives much more. This increases the dependence on technology and minimizes our online privacy and control of data. With "Internet in Everything" the digital business models are moving towards new industries, from retail stores, health care to finance. While the physical world becomes increasingly digital, even more people will be online. It is expected that there will be 7.6 billion Internet users by 2020. This trend is accelerated by the transition from traditional mobile phones to smartphones, and will lead to another explosion of data being stored online.
THE CHOICE BETWEEN CONVENIENCE AND PRIVACY
Societies definition of privacy and freedom will change radically over the next decade. The solutions to the problem will probably lie somewhere between new borders of our public presence, and more user-friendly security solutions. Whether it is convenience, necessity or terror that is argument for collecting our data, basic actions and standards are necessary. We can find some comfort in the fact that we are still at an early stage of technology. It is not the first time technology and innovation forces us to develop new social standards. The greatest hope for change lies with the consumers, but in order to change behavior we must change the norms, as we have experienced it with alcohol, smoking and seat belts. Through new revelations as Edward Snowden’s, the right to our data and online privacy have reached far more people's awareness. This seems to be the first step towards creating new norms and standards for protecting personal information online. If customers lose trust in brands, who aren’t transparent about how the handle our data, it may force companies to change their behavior in the future. And if it becomes as natural to secure our data as our home, it may be the breakthrough for wide spread security solutions. The norms and solutions we need in the future has to be compatible with the constant technological development, while creating a balance between innovation and privacy. Until then, the choice lies between convenience and privacy, and a hope that government and commercial interests will follow Google's motto; “Don't be evil".