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Data Privacy or Data Motility?

by on October 16, 2012


Unprecedented amounts of information produced every day, documenting our digital movements.

DATA IS MOTILE NOW- It moves on its own from its starting point in our smart phones, to cloud storage, through recoding software, also into the ownership of the companies who’s website recieves our information. etc.

We are not in control of where it goes or who can access it.


Algorithmic Power- mathematical codes used to break down our digital infomation (BSD) into patterns and can use it to profit from predicting our behaviours. Sentiment analysis are algorithms used to measure public mood.


This information is so valuable because it can be used to improve advertising campaigns and make them better targeted.




Public Resource or Privacy Issue?

So what do we do with this unprecedented amount of data and access to it?

Do we collate these individual data streams and use big social data to better visualise our society? Or should our personal information be kept private, and not allowed to be profited from in any way?

Leon Nayfakh- Our Data, Ourselves.

Article in the Boston Globe.

Believes the data boom can be a good thing, and used to benefit society by knowing more precisely what it wants and how it behaves.

“…a small group of thinkers is suggesting an entirely new way of
understanding our relationship with the data we generate. Instead of arguing
about ownership and the right to privacy, they say, we should be imagining data
as a public resource: a bountiful trove of information about our society which, if
properly managed and cared for, can help us set better policy, more effectively
run our institutions, promote public health, and generally give us a more
accurate understanding of who we are. This growing pool of data should be
public and anonymous, they say — and each of us should feel a civic
responsibility to contribute to it”

 Jane Yakowitz – Brooklyn Law School professor.

Data Commons concept

Yakowitz believes in the potential value our big social data can have if we all agree to contribute to it and allow it be aggregated. If this data is visualised it will be capable of outlining trends and other noteworthy behaviours, which Yakowitz then believes  can be used to benefit institutions who can use it to better serve the public. e.g health trends, what health campaigns are effective and what needs more attention.


“There are patterns and trends that none of us can discern by looking at our own individual experiences,” Yakowitz said. “But if we pooled our information, then these patterns can emerge very quickly and irrefutably. So, we should want that sort of knowledge to be made publicly available.”

It should be a group effort which everyone contributes to get the best possible look at our collective behaviours. Yakowitz believes it is our duty to contribute our information, the way people approached the national census when it first began. She and other advocates of the data commons concept believe the benefits of anonymized big data outweigh the privacy risks.


Arguments against Yakowitz idealised use of big social data don’t believe that true anonymity will ever exist and users will always be at risk of RE-IDENTIFICATION.

Re-identification – hacking techniques that can identify real people from so called ‘anonymous’ databases.

Privacy advocates believe that as long as big data is being generated, there is always the potential for it to be traced back to the individual, and true anonymity is not possible.

There appears to be a real paranoia towards sharing personal information particularly financial details online because of the fear of ‘hackers’

A poll conducted by the Consumers Union in America of Online Privacy found very real apprehension towards sharing information with online companies. As well as a overwhelming majority of users polled stating a belief that companies should always ask permission personal information, and value the right to opt out of any companies tracking their online behaviour, it also found a large percentage purposely attempting to protect their digital identities.

In addition to fears about true anonymity, privacy advocates are also concerned about the big business of buying and selling big social data. Companies like Facebook are already well known for profiting from selling users personal information to advertisers in order to create more accurately targeted advertising.

Yakowitz’s response to these profiteering fears are to encourage those entities wishing to use the information in a socially beneficial way only, creating a strict set of rules regarding the use of data and offering legal immunity from those companies which abide by those rules and are not seen to profit from the personal information of its users. These measures, she believes, will encourage big social data to be considered a valuable digital asset to our material world and those institutions looking to improve the society in which in users are generating the information. It is this attitude towards data, Yakowitz argues, that needs to be promoted and force profiteering companies to be conscientiousness with the data its users are currently offering, or risk losing it.

Awareness of Social Network Privacy


The popularity of social networking websites such as Facebook and the subsequent levels and depth of online disclosures have raised several concerns for user privacy. Previous issues in regards to these sites have indicated the importance of disclosures between users as well as an under-utilization of extensive privacy options. Research into social networking and privacy provide user-generated explanations for observed disclosure and privacy trends. Social network features imply that information provided on these sites is effectively public data that could exist for as long as anybody has an incentive to maintain it. Many entities from marketers to employers to national and foreign security agencies may have those incentives.


Online social networks such as Facebook offer exciting new opportunities for interaction and communication, but also raise new privacy concerns. Facebook stands out for its vast amount of members, its unique and personally identifiable, furthermore the data and amount of information that is revealed of every individual can be greatly explored.

  •  When asked by majority of people, why do you use Facebook?

People claim that Facebook is very convenient for them to find, friends, getting to know their friends better and etc. However the usefulness of other activities on Facebook is not expressed.

This clearly suggests that these days Facebook makes it easier for users to find one another, share information and communicate with one another better than other services or technology.

  •  Is it worth it?

The amount of information users are sharing on Facebook or other social networking websites has achieved them to do these activities, however this has also raised serious privacy issues.

Facebook Privacy Issues

 Online social networks such as Facebook have experienced exponential growth in users over recent years. These networks offer attractive means for interaction and communication, but also raise privacy and security concerns. It is found that individual’s do not have great amount of issues in relations to privacy.

Many individuals join the Social Network and reveal great amounts of personal information. Some manage their privacy concerns by trusting their ability to control the information they provide and the external access to it. However, there are many misconceptions about the online community’s actual size and composition, and about the visibility of members’ profiles.

A Facebook user is not factually obligated to join an online social network and share their information. However most networks encourage people to reveal information about themselves but are not forced, for example asking their date of birth, email address, cell phone numbers, location and etc. Obviously some users share more information than other users. This is dependable on every individual. Some people are more opened to sharing information about themselves, however this is not the case with everyone.


Online social networks security and access controls have been proven weak by design.
Facebook’s privacy and information settings are purposely made less complicated to enhance their growth of users and to influence their network commodities. Furthermore familiarity and confidence in digital technologies as well as other effects may influence the role of individual revealing information.



Facebook Issues and Profile Visibility

 Facebook users are usually fully aware that a social network is based on information sharing.  The strongest motivator for users providing more information are reported as “having fun” and “revealing enough information so it can be useful to themselves and other people.

 Most Facebook users are mildly concerned about who can access their personal information and how it can be used. However they are generally not concerned about the information itself. This mostly is due to them being able to control that information

 An example is, by default, everyone on Facebook appears in the search section for anyone and every profile on each groups formed can be seen by every member of Facebook. However it is believed that Facebook provides an extensive privacy policy and offers very granular control to users to choose what information to reveal to whom. In these groups users may consist of friends, friends of friends or not a friend.

 Question: what are your thoughts towards Facebook privacy, and how protected do you think your personal information is?


The end of privacy

Social media privacy issues

Does anybody remember “the star wars kid”? He is known by tens of millions of people but unfortunately for him it is because of the most embarrassing moment of his life.

In 2002 at the age of 15, the star wars kid videotaped himself pretending to use a lightsaber as if he were a Jedi Knight in a star wars film. His hilariously awkward video tape found by a class mate was uploaded to the internet and became viral. Viewers all around the world began to laugh and make fun of the boy as it became one of the most viewed videos on the web.

The teenager dropped out of school and had to seek counselling. This incident happened ten years ago but it can happen to anyone instantly. With the internet anybody can reach global audiences.

Recently on Facebook there have been many pages such as ‘naked selfies’ and embarrassing nightclub photos’. Some of these selfies pages have reached up to 100,000 ‘Likes’ at the peak of their popularity. These pages are often getting shutdown but there seems to be plenty more around. Photos being uploaded may have been from ex boyfriends or others simply just cyber bullying. Things like this may potentially ruin one’s life.

Generation Divide

Technology has lead to a generational divide. On one side are high school and university students whose lives virtually revolves around social networking sites. On the other are our parents whose pasts are not stored somewhere on the internet. As for our generation, the past is preserved on the internet, potentially forever…

Has anyone here ever typed their name into a search engine? If so, have you found anything you have deleted in the past still coming up in your search?


The Future of Reputation

Reputation plays an important role in society, and preserving private details in one’s life is essential to it. We look at peoples reputations to decided whether to make friends, go on a date or hire a new employee.

People want the option of ‘starting over,’ or reinventing themselves throughout their lives, but now with much information online it is harder to make your youthful mistakes and foolishness forgettable. People must now live with the digital baggage of their pasts

Privacy Control

Social networking sites greatly vary in the levels of privacy offered. With certain sites, such as Facebook the use of real names and uploading personal information is encouraged. It is up to the user what information is uploaded, though most do not realise what they are uploading for the public to see. Profile information includes your address, birth date, and telephone number and also more personalised information such as hobbies and interests, even relationship status and sexual preferences is asked. If you users privacy settings aren’t looked at carefully, anyone may have access to this information.

This has lead to many concerns that users are displaying too much information on the social networking site which may lead to serious privacy issues such as identity theft, sexual predators and stalking. The new Facebook timeline has received criticism as users past information and activity is now easily accessible, which perhaps may have been forgotten otherwise.

Social networking sites and blogs are not the only threat to privacy. Companies collect and use our personal information at every turn.

  • Credit card companies have records of your purchases
  • Internet providers store information about how you surf the web
  • Pay TV companies have data about what shows you watch

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