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Under His Eye: It’s Time to Expose Our Privacy Terms

As we read through the classic novels 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451, the concept of “dystopia” inevitably seems terrifying. But, comforted by the knowledge that what we are reading only exists in the world of books, we can easily remind ourselves that dystopia is a great distance away from the status quo.

The problem that these books – and a wave of new shows such as A Handmaid’s Tale and West World – have inadvertently created that we now assume that if such a world were to ever exist, it would only exist after some major revolution or apocalyptic event. The idea that dystopia could come upon us gradually seems outlandish and easily dismissible.

Though the status quo is certainly different than these creative worlds of science fiction, there are some features of these worlds that are much closer to our everyday lives than we care to admit. As the information era continues to unfold, it becomes increasingly more important to think about our privacy. Even if there is no entity known as “Big Brother” by name, various violations of our basic right to privacy have become almost impossible to ignore.

Technology Ahead of Its Time

The 21st Century is one that has already witnessed a significant amount of changes to the way we live our day-to-day lives. The development of smart technology, the total evolution of information systems, and even the widespread use of social media are all things that would seem completely foreign to anyone living even just twenty years ago.

Many of these changes have been incredibly exciting. Accessing information, other people, and new ideas have rapidly become more possible than ever before. But though we all have a lot we can certainly be excited about, these new frontiers are not without risks.

We are truly confronting the ‘Wild West’ of the information era. Our technologies are evolving quicker than we can keep up with and the risks of having our privacy violated or our information stolen are almost impossible to stay ahead of. The need for vigilance when using all mediums of modern technology has created a new set of responsibilities for consumers and new – seemingly unprecedented – moral obligations for large corporations.


Navigating Terms and Agreements

One of the ways that consumers are most easily taken advantage of is through the use of exploitive terms and agreements. Many terms of use policies will often be over 10,000 words in length making it unrealistic for a consumer to reasonably know exactly where they stand when clicking “I Agree.” Though agreeing to something you have not fully read can help the major data companies avoid legal liabilities, this certainly does not remove the possibility of consumer exploitation.

Some of the most common issues that you’ll find in these agreements include the sale of personal information, the use of cookies, and the long-term storage of data. Companies such as Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and numerous others have generated a significant amount of concern from the public. Though there have been some positive changes made for consumers, it remains the case that the corporations are often the ones acting first and responding later.

Addressing Problems with Big Data

Many of the problems that can be found in our modern “dystopia” are associated with what is commonly known as big data. As technology has developed, storing larger amounts of information for longer periods of time has become significantly more possible than ever. Though the existence of such a massive body of information can certainly be quite useful, it also presents certain risks to consumers hoping to keep their information private.

Legislators from all ends of the political spectrum have tried to address the problems with big data but are often slow to act and behind the revolutionary changes occurring in these industries. Things such as cryptocurrencies, personal data, and cyber warfare have largely remained in an unregulated sphere of private industry. The reality we face as consumers is that, in this world of seemingly limitless data gathering, we cannot possibly be sure what information about us is currently available, whether it is even true, or how that information may be used to harm us.

Trying to Protect the Rights of Consumers

There are many changes that can possibly be made in order to make the modern world more consumer friendly. Doing things such as increasing transparency of big data corporations, limiting the ways in which data can be stored and distributed, and requiring companies to have clearer terms of use will all likely step in the right direction.

Recent scandals at Facebook and other tech giants have unleashed a new wave or legal situations that will certainly raise some important questions. These cases may have a major impact on consumer rights and the use of technology as a whole. Whether a stronger right to privacy will be created or if the public will continue to remain ‘under his eye’ is something that is still yet to be seen.

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