Mining Data, Undermining Privacy : Beware ! Nothing is personal, its e-Colonization

Adil Raza Khan

‘I accept’: Finishing Installation, Welcoming e-Colonisation

The year 2017 is a historic year to recall and cherish our revolutionary past. The first Satyagrah against the Britsh Rule took place at Champaran exactly 100 years ago from now. Recently in August, the entire nation celebrated the the plantinum jubilee of Quit India Movement. Quit India movement, a revolution that is regarded as the last and the mightiest struggle against the British suppression. The August revolution led to the end of colonization in India and eventually we won the freedom. In the present time, we have been experiencing another revolution in the form of Digitalisation. The age of internet has certainly made us more liberated than ever before but paradoxically the phenomena of data mining, surveillancing, chatbox intrusions have also made us an obedient subject to a mechanised colonial rule.

 

The emergence of Big Data Technology indicates a silent intrusion of developed world into the developing one. The whole concept of neo-imperialism has now been transformed into an era of e-Colonization. The Big Data Technology simply means accumulation and storage of data on a very large scale on a single server. For instance, the search engine giant ‘Google’ stores petabytes of information of millions of people across the world through its multiple services and channels which are linked to it. Google is the one example, there are thousands more in the said category.

 

The question is, what they exactly do with the data and how it is going to affect one’s socio-economic pursuits? The answer is little complicated but let’s understand. The data collected by giant service providers is actually for sale. Data helps industries and services across the world to understand the consumer behaviours. Large MNCs buy the data and process it precisely. Data is further analysed and companies made their business startegies accordingly.

Ideally companies seek information regarding the consumer behaviours through their market research executives. The evolution of such technologies has legitimised the malpractice of surveillancing. Since BDTs are cost effective, companies do not hesitate to disband manual practice of data collection. The market research executives conquer informations of an individual or a group on consensual basis where the consumers are informed about it. Though, this practice also does not involve hundred percent honesty but at least we know what we provide to them. But when surveillancing is done by BDTs, you have no scope to get informed about what assets and informations of yours are being accessed for what purpose and to what extent. These questions remain largely unanswered.

 

Big Data Technolgy does not only affect individual’s life but it also poses a great threat to Indian economy as well as polity. The first serious threat is the “Drain of Wealth”. Most of the Big Corporations of the world are based in their home countries, mainly the advanced or developed world. They possess gigantic servers and store petabytes of data every second. The data helps MNCs to suck revenue of a country which should be supposedly earned by the domestic companies. The kind of revenue BDT possessors earn, drawn from a diverse range of socio-economic activities viz. e-commerce, online advertisement, gaming industries, emails, social networking sites, health and educational portals and many more online services. Apparently, in the name of globalization, e-commerce, social networking firms and other service providers enter into Indian market which is widely unregulated and exploit the sovereign wealth buoyantly.

 

The companies do not only suck sovereign wealth but also put the political sovereignty at risk. The recent incidents of data breach of a big telecom operator and the shut down at National Stock Exchange (NSE) are the latest examples of cyber incursions. Even the government officials including higher echelon use the commonly available sources and services for their official communications. The official communications comprise some sensitive and strategic information that could possibly cause danger to the entire political system. The incidents of honeytrap, filming and private chat leaks have become so frequent that a victim is left with no option except to compromise. Imagine the risk of leaks if a honey-trapped unwillingly discloses secret informations. The above incidents and the potential threats are indeed a matter of concern.

The Supreme Court has also taken the issue of data breach into its consideration. Hearing the Aadhar petition, the apex court had questioned the centre about the safety of the data provided by individuals. The historic verdict of 9 judges constitutional bench has recently held that ‘Right to Privacy’ is intrinsic to the fundamental right guaranteed by the article 21 of the Indian constitution, which lays down the right of a person to live a dignified life. However the right has to be exercised within the purview of reasonable restriction, yet the hide and seek of data can not be justified.

 

Though government is repeatedly ensuring about the safety and security of the data but the matter of the fact is, we lack on the technological as well as political front. Here we have a lesson that should be learnt. China exhibited its political commitment and introduced cutting edge technologies to counter the global sharks who were swallowing sovereign data and secret information of China. The evolution of Baidu in China to counter google, is an ideal example of securing sovereign interest and the privacy of individuals. India also needs immediate attention over this issue. Indigenous Research and Devlopment in the field of Big Data Technology is the need of the hour. We are a home to a large number of high skilled technocrats who facilitate others in the field of information technology. The only thing our innovators need, is the government’s push and the institutions like C-DAC can play a vital role in this regard.

 

Moreover, the individuals should also understand the importance of his/her privacy as well as business and political dynamics of global service providers. There is an urgent need to distinguish between the two –  ‘free stuffs and freedom’.  For this, the individuals must come out of ‘I accept’ theory and excessive consumerism syndrome. Unless they understand that in reality a consumer itself acts as a producer for thriving data mining industries, the latent exploitation shall remain in vogue. At the behest of unchallenged individual liberty, freedom and choice, the threat of e-Colonization is looming large and unfortunately our ignorance has been paving the path of its success.

Adil Raza Khan worked with Rajya Sabha TV and Presently he is working as a freelancer.

 

 

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