Who Owns The Data? Who’s In Control?
Your data is being sold for pennies. The user is supposed to be the owner of their digital data but the constant access requests from the service providers lead your data to the brokers. The ownership and control of your data have become a complete myth in this era of digitalization. Don’t let these providers use your data to manipulate your surroundings, pretending to provide a better experience.
Who is the owner of the data you upload on the World Wide Web, surprisingly that does not depend on your provider as much as it depends on where you live. There are only a few countries in the world with strict laws regarding the privacy, security, and ownership of the data that its citizens upload on the web. For example, the EU already has GDPR in place which aims solely to provide ownership and responsibility of the personal data of the citizens to the citizens themselves. It compels the companies carrying out business in the UK to give control of data in the hands of the European citizens to whom it belongs to and any provider or company that fails to do so is legally at fault and has to comply by paying a hefty monetary fine.
Other countries do not have such stringent laws in place thus making the ownership an iffy fight. Technically the owner is primarily supposed to be the user, i.e., you, but providers constantly keep asking for access to your data and then eventually the data goes into the hands of the data brokers because we get tired and stop focusing on those little blue letters, “terms and conditions.”
Data brokering is the collection of your data by data brokers who further sell it to other data brokers, companies or individuals. These data brokers do not need to have a personal relationship with you or even know you in any way for that matter. As far as ownership of the data that they collect is concerned, most of them inform you and allow you to remove any raw data from their database, great right? No, they allow you to remove the raw data but not the information they learn or create using your data thus making that “ownership” of data in your hands effectively useless.
Data brokering is one of the largest contributors to the revenue of a provider company. Simple data like your address and phone number get sold around like hotcakes, with you having almost no control over it as you can revoke that data from the primary source but once something is out on the internet it never vanishes, it is always present in some corner of the World Wide Web.
Even though most providers never mention “selling” of your data, it is encrypted behind words like “utilize to optimize for you” or “share this information to provide a better experience.” To understand this, you love those personalized ads that you get on your social media platforms and other online platforms, right? But do you ever wonder how something you searched on a completely different space online is something you immediately see on the other platforms you use on the internet? That is data brokering. That is why you have almost no ownership or control for that matter. These websites share the data of one person with other websites to give them optimized ads.
But these platforms only want good for you and provide you with a “better” experience online and they give all that to you for free, right? No, nothing in this world is ever free, everything has a price and so does this “better” experience and “free” services. You pay for everything by sharing your data and they earn by selling your data. That is data brokering.
Don’t you just love those free-trials? Get the full-fledged experience for free, no need to lighten your pockets, right? Again, no. if you remember, most of these free trials ask you to input your bank details just in case, they even sugarcoat it by saying you can cancel this service and no charges will be imposed upon you. Even if you do not continue with the paid version, they have your bank details now… do you still feel like you are the “owner” of your data?
Ownership is complete control over a property legally. And now since we know that ownership is blurry and subjective then so is control over the data. Even though control is the result of ownership, online you lose ownership gradually as the providers keep taking away more and more control from you. We are presented with a buffet of privacy measures but we all do not realize the tactics behind that. Why do they keep asking us to strengthen our privacy settings when privacy is a human right and it should be provided without a request? Simple, they say that way they are giving you control over your own data but what they don’t tell you is that if you don’t then we are free to violate privacy and publicize your data as you never said so specifically that you want your data hidden from prying eyes. The eyes of the “free” providers are the ones that pry the most and yet when it is their security algorithm that fails they implement changes in the privacy policies, they ask you to do all the work while they freely feed off of your data. Manipulative much?
What these new privacy policies are doing is that they present a platter of control options in front of you which says privacy settings and if you don’t consume it they do not guarantee the safety of your data and identity online on their platform. Do you realize the wordplay here? They invoke a fear inside you and a threat and ask you to exercise the control that they design. Who is truly in control over here?
They control you, your actions and in turn your data by saying that we give you the option to control under our guidelines. What if you don’t want to hide your data from not just the external prying eyes but from the prying eyes of your provider itself, you have control over your data right? Yet you cannot stop them from reading and storing your data.
In this era where you are fooled via wordplay and where your best interests come after the interests of the company that feeds off of your data, you need a saviour that doesn’t hide behind pseudo control or manipulative terms and conditions or offers. You need a space where you can feel safe from these exploiters and sellers, where you have ownership and control over everything you upload in the true sense and not with terms and conditions applied to control. Space where you find privacy and freedom, just like you enjoy the privacy of your home. All you need is a space that is yours, all you need is a digital home. What you truly need in this age of manipulation is Houm.