Luczon: Data brouhaha

Nef Luczon

MY NIECES and nephews eventually had a good freelance career. For many years now, one of their foreign clients trusted them of an outsourced job online - profiles monitoring.

So what they just do is that run this application introduced by their client, and they can see eventually all users who signed up for this dating social networking platform. The task is simple: scan through the photos of the users and see if there are themes or contents that violated the social network platform’s community standards. On this case, should they see raunchy images to the point it is pornographic or sexually explicit, they report it. And at some extent, they can remove the photos or block the users in question.

It was quite envious, they just look at the screen with different photos of random people who uploaded in their profiles, while at the same time do a sideline gig by playing DOTA-2 on the other screen, and at the end of the day, they would earn three to four times higher than an ordinary corporate employee. There was a time that the task became so voluminous, even my 76-year-old father is being paid to monitor for four hours a day, and the paycheck is still higher than fastfood chain manager.

So when the news broke out about how Cambridge Analytica “harvested” massive data from Facebook and how it allegedly controlled the voting preferences of Americans that led to the election of President Donald Trump, some people went gaga. But for me, I can’t help but chuckle of their naive reactions.

And since some of us are so enamored with anything foreign, especially the United States, some reports insinuated that the data mining firm might also had a hand in the Philippine elections that also led to the victory of President Rodrigo Dutere.

The media was hysterical about it, telling us that we are not safe when we surf the internet and use our social media accounts. More so, when a report suggested that Facebook and Google look up on our private messages and store them for possible violations of their community standards. That means, they would know who you are, your interests, your addresses and other information about you from your preferences to your lifestyle habits.

This whole scenario is quite amusing, to be frank, because for one, the media portrayed this whole “massive” data breach like it’s the blunder of the century with an alarmist tone that we may not be safe at all from any entities that will expose our right to privacy (because, indeed it is serious).

But to be sure, and to be clear: everyone should always be aware and literate enough when it comes to how modern technology like surfing the internet and engage in social media.

However, I wish to convey an uncomfortable reality: whatever social media entities - be it Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc. - and whatever activities you engage in the Internet - from applications or softwares you used - there is no guarantee that these entities will not use your private information.

Whatever we do, we leave digital footprints, and the notion of “safe and secure” being promised by whatever online entities, is only a hallucination. Why do you think that banks now issue “cash cards” so that you will use it instead of your actual credit or debit cards when shopping online?
Remember when you sign up to become a member of a social media site? Or install an application? Most of them suggested to read “User Agreements” or “Community Standards” or whatever legal terms they use. The problem is, we don’t read it, because other than we have no time, it’s too lengthy that it’s probably the same reading time spent for short novels.

The bottomline here is that, the Internet (and now your smartphones) is the least place you can trust your privacy with, but today Internet is essential in almost whatever things we do. But then again, it is us, the users, have to set parameters on how willing we are to share our information online. And whatever information we encode to the system, expect that there is a possibility that it can be extracted by individuals, or corporations like Facebook and Google, or even Cambridge Analytica.

That is why in my case, I see to it that I would only share little to no information at all. If a site is asking for address, I give them a false location; or if they ask phone numbers or bank details, I hand out incorrect one. Because at the end of the day, we are responsible to the information we share to the world.

But this does not mean that enterprising online entities already have a complete control in accessing our privacy. There are still thin lines on how it is done and laws on privacy and security should still prevail.
(nefluczon@gmail.com)