How Advancements in Technology Are Fraught With Privacy Policies

Most technology companies operating in the global market largely depend on Big Data to carry out their activities as well as introduce innovations. This, however, is being hampered by the avalanche of privacy laws being churned out by governments.

Technology and sharing personal information are absolutely indispensable to participation in this modern society. Internet access and use of new digital technologies are of utmost necessity for employment, education, access to benefits, and full participation in economic as well as civic life.

The first big fine under the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a €50m ($57m, £44m) fine, was handed down to Google from the French data protection authority, CNIL. CNIL said Google violated the obligation of transparency and did not have a legal basis to process data for ad personalization.

As if that is not enough, the Personal Information Security Specification states that companies must have valid grounds for collecting personal data and must have a transparent privacy policy; they must explain why they want to collect it and how they are going to use it.

They are only allowed to take the minimum data required, can only use it for the specified purposes, and must relinquish it at the expiration of the stated time. Individuals have to provide their consent and have full rights to their data, including erasure. Then there are requirements for security, breach notifications, DPOs, and cross-border transfers.

If we really want Artificial Intelligence, alongside other tech advancements to work, we should realize that data is the “raw material.” AI systems cannot learn without analyzing data. Once we feed them with enough data, they will be able to make decisions and take actions without the need for human interaction. The more the data they have, the better their decisions.

Privacy policies may be their undoing. This is the main reason AI technology raises so many privacy issues. Data has become a highly prized commodity. The more customer data brands are able to collect about their users, the more they are able to serve those customers. 

There shouldn’t be anything sinister about the collection of data. If an organization knows your past Internet browsing activity and your past purchasing behavior or past social media activity, it can begin to develop customized offers and promotions that are directly targeted to you. 

EU’s Article 13 is another source of concern to operators. It is the directive on copyright, requiring the likes of Twitter, Dailymotion, Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook, and other streaming platforms to take more responsibility for the content shared on their platforms. 

The aftermath of this privacy law directive is to kill innovation, discourage idea exchange, and block access to businesses offering streaming services thereby halting technological advancements in the streaming industry effectively.

Though the directive requires sites and internet platforms to filter any user-generated content that is being uploaded without permission, consumers and internet service providers will most likely bypass the restrictions by subscribing to services such as the VPN.

This is what happens when privacy policies that should be set up to regulate users are set up in such a way that it restricts and prevents the exchange of information. Privacy policies are good, but taking that to the extreme is where we may be getting it wrong. We must not overlook the fact that technological advancements have produced enormous benefits for our society. 

We need Big Data and private information to effectively cure a variety of diseases, ease traffic, and reduce pollution among others. Tighter security controls at airports and borders based on technological advancements and personal information will help prevent attacks and loss of life.

Such measures could include more intrusive scanning, body searches, watch lists, etc. In addition to their deterrence effect, they will enable officials to stop attacks as they are happening.

Rights to privacy should not be absolute; what you consider intrusion may at the end be for security purposes. The world is at war with cybercriminals and terrorists at the moment and measures should be taken that may border on intrusion to normalize the situation.

The world has experienced a series of health issues of which the Ebola epidemic in some African communities quickly comes to mind. In the case of Ebola, Barbara Han, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies said: “Using machine learning methods developed for Artificial Intelligence, we were able to bring together data from ecology, biogeography, and public health to identify bat species with a high probability of harboring Ebola and other filoviruses. Understanding which species carry these viruses, and where they are located, is essential to preventing future spillovers.”

Fortunately for us, we only needed data from bats to combat this outbreak. If we need data from humans in any subsequent outbreak, what shall we do with the privacy policies in place?

John Ejiofor is the founder and editor of Nature Torch, a blog that discusses the impact of humans on our mother nature. He’s a freelance writer and has been featured on some of the top blogs around the world.

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