Due to the relatively new nature of online communication and privacy, many potential offshoots will affect our agency and decisions as groups and individuals. Conglomerates like Google might be the canary in the coalmine for your rights to online privacy. On the flip side, numerous solutions are rising to challenge this hegemony. We have to remember that seminal shifts have taken place within a short amount of time. There is no historical context to make sense of the era we now live in, so there will be lots of trial and error.
Communication through data is the desired outcome for companies looking to make as much money as possible, but this will come at the expense of privacy for the customer. Whether people care about their privacy over convenience is another matter altogether. But there is growing scepticism towards data intrusive companies. Ruby Zefo, the Chief Privacy Officer of Uber, states “what consumers want is simply more transparency and control over their data, because it’s very hard to understand what’s happening right now.” This lack of understanding could eventually lead to apathy towards privacy regulators from both businesses and customers.
The Growing Problem of Government and Company Intrusion
Look at the case of Timothy Carpenter, a man convicted of armed robbery through the use of location data on his phone. This investigation is a prime example of how data-collection will impact policing and justice in the future. The paradox of stopping a crime through a borderline criminal act in many people’s eyes will cause further mistrust in the institutions designed to protect them. Dystopian comparisons to films like Minority Report comes to mind.
Data-collection for advertising is also a significant factor at play. Some recent cases are already pushing the boundaries of business to customer relationships. Target’s use of data allowed them to accurately predict when women were going to give birth, allowing them to send personalised coupons to expecting mothers.
These trends suggest that individuals will have little say in their online privacy if they continue to shop and interact with the world’s largest companies. A form of subconscious communication is seemingly taking place between large institutions and the individual on a grand scale without the individual firmly grasping the situation. The data trail an online user will leave behind them is astonishing. Companies will continue to capitalise on this money-making opportunity.
Is there Potential for Online Civil Disobedience Because of this Intrusion?
In Pew Research’s report on the future of privacy, one anonymous respondent wrote, “There will be a subset of the public rebelling against this surveillance and data-driven society through either withdrawal from the online world or acts of ‘civil disobedience’ against the powerful.” This ties in with a growing view among internet users that solutions based around privacy will become the norm. Legacy-based platforms like Facebook will be looked down upon due to an emerging online civil rights movement. Or will we transition into an era where “The digital private sphere, as well as the digital public sphere, will most likely completely overlap.”
Our Relationship with the Media
We have already seen a fragmentation of relationships with communication through social media platforms. Fake news has become a staple of public discourse due to the reach of social media giants Facebook and Twitter, which control the information we consume. The sheer amount of content generated and consumed has already caused debate. Documentaries like The Social Dilemma will help bring this issue into public discussion.
The Role of Regulation
Regulation based solutions like GDPR focusing on the way that we conduct ourselves online are gathering pace but may cause further complications and confusion in the short term. One respondant in Pew’s Privacy Report said that “there is no way the world’s varied cultures, with their different views about privacy, will be able to come to an agreement on how to address civil liberties issues on the global Internet.”
Privacy regulations between countries may become bureaucratic in nature. In the US alone, privacy laws such as the Mississippi Consumer Data Privacy Act will surely complicate how businesses communicate with each other state-wide.
The main focal points in the coming years will be how large data-collecting companies and governments are held to account by a growing privacy-conscious population. Transparency will be the main aim, with ethical security measures a must in establishing reliable communication. it is also vital that on an individual level, the culture of privacy will join forces with the culture of convenience and ease of use.