Cyber Privacy | April Falcon Doss

Summary of: Cyber Privacy: Who Has Your Data and Why You Should Care
By: April Falcon Doss


In the age of the internet, personal data is collected and used continually by tech giants. ‘Cyber Privacy: Who Has Your Data and Why You Should Care’ by April Falcon Doss explores the landscape of data collection, privacy, and its implications on individuals. Within this book summary, users can expect insights into the extent of data tracking undertaken by these big tech firms and how this information is used for profit and influence. From store loyalty programs to the omnipresent Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google, the summary sheds light on the current state of data protection, digital privacy, and the roles of legislation and education in safeguarding individuals’ privacy rights.

The Power of Big Data

Nowadays, people create personal data online at an unprecedented rate, and tech companies collect this information, compile it into marketable data sets, and analyze it with sophisticated tools, generating highly accurate predictions of customer behavior. Thus, big data enables businesses to understand individual preferences in greater detail than ever before. Take the supermarket industry: In the past, marketers could only assess roughly how popular a promotion was, but store loyalty programs allow them to track exactly what customers buy and when, providing treasure troves of data. The rise of big data is made possible not by changes in the nature of data but by computing advances. Computer processing power doubles every 18 months, with capacity jumping a trillion-fold between 1955 and 2015. Big Tech can analyze vast amounts of information, with the world’s internet users performing five billion searches daily as of 2018. By then, an estimate suggested that some 90% of all data had been created and harvested in just two years.

The Price of Privacy

A study shows that people are willing to sacrifice privacy for as little as $2. Consumers are often unaware of the privacy options when using digital platforms, and companies profit by collecting and selling users’ data to advertisers. The value of data-intensive services includes privacy, whether acknowledged or not. The more you use free services, the more they know about you.

Big Tech’s All-Seeing Eye

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google possess a staggering amount of information about people’s lives, from their entertainment preferences to political and religious beliefs. While US regulators have struggled to address this issue, consumer tracking remains largely unknown to most people. Consumers should assume that every online move they make is being closely monitored by Big Tech. Although the US government has taken a hands-off approach to this issue, the European Union’s antitrust authorities pursue regulatory measures against Big Tech. This unequal approach is raising concerns about the lack of privacy protection for American consumers.

Algorithmic Biases

In this modern age, algorithms are becoming a force that provides solutions to various issues from predicting crimes before they happen to analyzing data and patterns in Crisis Text Line. However, while algorithms provide useful solutions, they are not perfect and often create biases. Such biases can lead to situations like an Amazon hiring algorithm overwhelmingly recommending white male candidates or a tool that predicts pre-criminal offenders’ recidivism being less accurate than human parole officers. The risk of replacing free will in addressing mental health or re-entering society after imprisonment is also high. Nonetheless, the Crisis Text Line has used data analysis to manage 15,000 text messages a day and found that people are more likely to disclose information via text than in person. They were also able to identify that episodes of anxiety peak at 11 p.m., and self-harm is most likely at 4 a.m. Thus, we must acknowledge that algorithmic biases should be given attention to avoid potential serious consequences for users.

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