Privacy in the digital age: Do we give up effective data protection?

What is happening with our digital data? That’s one of the big questions today. We are confronted with a double challenge: First, state agencies are highly interested in our data. The NSA activities are just the tip of the iceberg. It is unclear if, and how we can tame the data-hunger of these apparently ‘securitized’ agencies. Second, there are the big IT companies like Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, Google, etc., whom we feed with our own personal information. The recently changed contract provisions of FB make a lot of people (re)considering their own habits in social networks. Opting out is possible, but not desired so far by most customers.

So do we give up an effective data protection on both fronts? Or are there potential remedies?

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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 3 years ago

    I do agree that the methods of collection of digital data become more and more sophisticated but so are the methods of preservation as well. We may be giving up the data protection mostly because state agencies and the NSA are interested in collection but not in preservation and protection at the same degree as collection. There is now law that would press those who collect data to ensure the adequate preservation and protection. The problem is not that we are giving up, the problem is that there is no law implemented to forbid the collection of data with inadequate preservation and protection. One remedy is to create an adequate juridical mechanism that enables the punishment for data loss or stealing that will make the risk unprofitable and personal losses insupportable. In the new era this becomes a new public good that must be provided foremost by the state.

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  2. Hildegard Müller 3 years ago

    The Internet is the Wild West of the 21st century. Law and justice
    can hardly keep up with the rapid development and expansion of cyberspace
    in all areas of life. The release of sensitive data is entirely voluntary, but few of us are aware of both the consequences as well as the potential of such information. Insofar a general education about the benefits and use of data is important.
    In addition, the technological democratization of the network so that everyone can participate must follow a legal democratization. Offline rights must also be brought online. This means universal rights, but also obligations for all users – whether they are in
    Germany, the US or China. This process is lengthy and not easy, but also in power, the freedom of one must end where they restrict the rights of others.

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  3. Dorothea Schäfer 3 years ago

    Yes we do give up an effective data protection on both fronts if we are not prepared to (at least sometimes) opt out. Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, Google, etc will only learn if we “opt by feet”, that is leave the social networks and tell them why. Potential remedies may be competitors with a better protection of our data and regulations that make better protection mandatory. But the pressure must come from us. As long as we are complacent and inactive, no matter what is done with our data, nobody will feel the need for a change. Competitors with a better business model that protects our data efficiently will only have a chance to succeed in the market if we are prepared to choose them over the incumbent providers of social networks, search engines etc.

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  4. Caroline King 3 years ago

    Today companies and consumers alike worry that their sensitive data is secure in the cloud. Integrity, security and transparency are the objectives the IT sector needs to keep in clear sight. Industry-driven certification schemes endorsed by regulatory authorities could be the solution.

    In any case, restrictive regulation of data protection is not the answer. Recent developments in some regions toward mandatory data localization, procurement preferences and taxation on digital processes will only hinder economic growth without resolving the issue. We need to define a balance that will allow digital services to flourish while protecting the legitimate rights of citizen.

    Alongside investing into trust-building measures, we need to promote and secure open markets, the free flow of data and transparent and reliable regulatory frameworks. The European Union should establish a Digital Single Market, where data can move freely between member states. Moreover, TTIP should contain strong provisions to facilitate the free flow of data between the US and the EU. This could provide a template to address data protectionism globally, and in particular for the growth markets.

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  5. Shen Dingli 3 years ago

    I just saw the movie, The Imitation Game. Since Alan Turing and his British team could break the German encryption machine, Enigma, during WWII, the absolute notion of data protection at that time was already out of date. Now that over seventy years have passed, Turing’s machine, or computer as it is now called, has been globally networked. This makes privacy in the digital age even harder to dream of. Edward Snowden’s leak of the NSA eavesdropping of German Chancellor and the Chinese President etc. indicates that not only privacy but national secrets are increasingly vulnerable. In the meantime, there is no guarantee that agencies of other countries are not admiring their NSA counterparts, and are not interested in doing the same.

    So the simple but radical approach to privacy in the digital age is to avoid electronic digits – don’t use the computer as its radiation would leak the content of the machine, and if one has to use it, don’t network it so its content is less likely to be watched by others. In short, don’t communicate through the internet or with other cyber means. Then, it seems that only the traditional letter-writing and age-long courier communication would be least likely to leak one’s privacy, at least instantly and globally. If one couldn’t bear the hassle of such ancient means, h/she has to be ready to compromise the idea of absolute privacy.

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6 Comments

  1. Ilse 3 years ago

    I agree with Dorothea Schäfer about people power and voting with our feet. The new social networking site Ello is a good example – it presents itself as an alternative to Facebook without ads, which promises not to sell user data to third parties. It also doesn’t force users to present their real names online (although that’s a different kettle of fish). Ello began as private network between friends who wanted to communicate with privacy. The internet has given us the tools to create these spaces for ourselves. So why wouldn’t we?

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  2. Jongkor 3 years ago

    I do agree with those who say that we do not have to keep up digital data. Indeed, noway there is no secret, whatever in the sea, the space or on the land, because the human being has known everything, technology has made everything very simple under the name of; (Apple, Yahoo, Google). Everything is easy for human being to trace it. But bylaws, we have to find the mechanism on how to protect the digital data.There are people searching and tracing to know what other people do, maybe for their interests either for security, economy or even education. North Korea hacking accusation threaten to escalate cyber war between US and China, fighting in the cyber trades US, China, and Russia, these are two example of security. On other side, of course democracy goes with technology, through network, but it has to be protected.

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  3. Corine 3 years ago

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  4. AW 3 years ago

    Probably the most stricking thing about the data collection and storage is that it does not really serve the public security. Both of the terrorists, who conducted shoorings in Charlie Hebdo were known to the French police, and German police also knew the NSU people. So the depressing thing is that information is accessible but not used wisely.
    I agree with Mrs. Schäfer, that it is up to the users to force the social media into a better data security.
    Another aspect of this problematic is that not everybody in the world has equal access to the internet. The battle for freedom of internet is currently going on between China and the US and the risk is high, that China would take up the data security issue in order to legitimize its crack downs on the domestic freedom of internet

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  5. Wisam 3 years ago

    The idea that security and privacy necessarily equals a zero sum game isn’t completely accurate. I think that government should be entrusted to handle our personal information safely and securely. It’s really an issue of public confidence in the state’s ability to protect that information. Governments must also work in concert with big businesses. They don’t necessarily have to be at odds. Indeed, Google, Facebook, Twitter executives met with representatives from the US government to discuss the issue of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria. We must keep in mind that the threat is very real, and also very illusive. Governments across the world are trying to get the balance right. Watch out for populism.

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  6. Jongkor 3 years ago

    It is a little bit harder to protect privacy due to technology information revolution which is developing very rapidly in the world. Even, Governments in the world are not able to control the information at their institutions, because of IT Revolution. Many huskers are there searching for privacy.But yes, people feel free to expressing themselves through internet as well as democracy is roaming with freedom that is find, but, Institution that own Digital Data must protect its privacy by laws.

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