I Have Nothing To Hide… YES, YOU DO!

I Have Nothing To Hide… YES, YOU DO!

Your credit card is leaking information about your consumer’s habits.

Before utter the nonsensical words: ‘So what? I’ve got nothing to hide!’ let that opening statement sink in for a moment. Yes, I know you’re frustrated that you don’t have control anymore, we all are. That’s just how exclamations like ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ are born, out of frustration, as a self-defense mechanism to the ugly world around you, as Shoshana Zuboff excellently explained in her latest book ‘The Age Of Surveillance Capitalism.’

Think of the following situation before you even think of saying those words: an online add suddenly captures your attention as it is about a product or service you PRIVATELY spoke about it before. You didn’t search for that product or service, you didn’t ever buy such a thing or something closely related to it.

Did you ever experience that? Welcome aboard, then! This might not have happened because a device heard your conversation and shared it with ‘third-parties’… not necessarily. It may happen the advertisers know so much about you that they can influence and predict your future desires. That alone should scare you about the magnitude of behavioral data out there, for the taking.

Mining Credit Card Data

VISA & MasterCard Cards

Probably the most relevant information comes from your purchasing history.

Unfortunately, credit card companies aren’t quite interested in your privacy and well-being. In fact, since the behavioral data industry is booming, they all look to monetize the data they gather from your purchases as a recent Washington Post editorial revealed.

The article isn’t about two bananas bought with two cards, but about the massive data universe created after such a menial spend.

There is a whole maze that is created & that hides many important details & facts about where this information actually goes to. There is the bank linked to your card that can share your data with ‘non-affiliates’ or ‘third-parties.’

Moreover, there is the card company – VISA or MasterCard – that will share your data with many businesses around the world. Obviously, the store plays a big part too, especially if you’re dealing with a big brand.

Last but not least, there is the POS plus others that could be in the way between you and your purchase (like ewallets & financial apps).

And just when you think you could be safe if you purchased things offline, at the local mall & convenience store, a report is leaked telling the story of how Google bought MasterCard data about you buying things at Walmart or whatever.

Do you still feel safe?

The Dangers Of Ad Retargeting

The most obvious danger is indeed data leaks that could ‘share’ your private data with the very wrong kind of people. Yet, this isn’t the only apparent danger.

Developing a picture-perfect consumer profile that can reveal inherent weaknesses is another one that could affect our everyday life and even our state of mind.

Princeton professor Arvind Narayanan posted a very interesting Tweetstorm recently, explaining how ad retargeting and the AI could backslash.

Spamming you with products you bought before can have catastrophic consequences for a person who wants to quit an addiction, for example. Furthermore, showing ideal life scenes related to that product over and over again can sometimes lead to lower self-esteem and depression (your life isn’t as picturesque & fulfilling like in those ads).

Contrary to what most of us believe, we are quite easy to manipulate when we are in our apparent comfort zone and repetition may very well be the most efficient way to rewire our brains.

Human Brain Infographic

The Puppeteer, NOT The Puppet

From the behavioral data miners, we have seen and we will continue to see the same narrative: the early stages of the AI and machine learning is mysterious, unexpected, and inevitable.

However, as Zuboff argues in ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,’ the tech giants are just trying to divert the attention from them to the technology. In fact, they are to blame, they created the technology in their image. The AI couldn’t have behaved like it is today IF it hadn’t been programmed to. Don’t misunderstand the ‘free-will’ of the puppet from the strings the puppeteer is controlling.

As a conclusion, it is time to take the privacy matter into our own hands. Don’t just be content to say ‘I’ve nothing to hide.’ You DO have something to hide & as a matter of fact, you should hide whatever you can as it can help you towards living a balanced life, without sudden inexplicable urges or even self-confidence issues.

What’s your opinion on the current state of surveillance capitalism? What do you do to protect yourself from such status quo? Let us know in the comment section below!

Florian Gheorghe

Freedom Evangelist, self-employed for over 8 years, consciously trying to break the status quo one step at a time. Writing is my ultimate escape, action is my only option.

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