Where is digital privacy going?
The Future of Digital and the EU's Vision
Everyone now has access to a vast amount of information through just one smartphone. While the advancement of digital technology has brought various benefits, it has also given rise to new problems, such as paralysis of state institutions due to hacking and automatic selection of information through algorithms. This week, we focus on the fate of privacy in the digital society.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought to light the importance of strengthening security and protecting privacy. Especially in neighboring European countries, there is an accelerating movement to review vulnerabilities in the digital field.
One of these movements is the legislation on AI in the EU. This aims to reduce the risks associated with AI utilization while promoting innovation, such as AI-powered security networks. However, there is a need to strike a balance between safety and regulations that may hinder technological advancements.
Furthermore, comprehensive support for cybersecurity agencies in the EU and AI technology-based startups and SMEs is also required.
However, these efforts do not mean building a firewall around the EU. They are meant to empower the people of Europe to shape their digital future. At this historical moment, the EU needs to set forth a long-term vision rather than fragmented approaches.
Do You See the Bubble?
I feel like I haven’t experienced the excitement of entering a bookstore in a long time. I remember going to the language book corner, but before I knew it, I found myself looking at travel magazines, no longer encountering new things beyond my interests.
Nowadays, with just a device in hand, we can instantly find the books we want and even get recommendations based on algorithms that analyze our interests. Even when reading books on Kindle, data such as page-turning speed and emphasized phrases are fed back to Amazon’s servers to determine users’ preferences. This algorithm is not limited to books but is used in various aspects of the internet. According to surveys, the top 50 internet sites on average install 64 types of data on servers through cookies and other tracking algorithms.
This algorithm creates a situation where we can only receive information that aligns with our desires, known as the “filter bubble.” This can lead to propaganda-driven ideological divisions, biased thinking, and the spread of fake news. Every time we open a page, we unconsciously control the information we receive.
In today’s information-saturated world, it is essential to be aware of being wrapped in a bubble and to look at the world more neutrally.
Let’s open a private browsing tab and explore random information as we did when encountering new things at a bookstore.
Avoiding Being Swallowed by Tech Companies
“Tech companies managing vast amounts of personal information and turning us into a captive audience for their ad market.”
Have you ever watched the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” with such a powerful message?
Nowadays, over 95% of people aged 20 to 50 in Japan own a smartphone. As consumers, it’s time to consider how to protect our privacy while providing the necessary information within the structure of companies vs. users.
Recent memory includes Google’s announcement of the discontinuation of support for third-party cookies due to concerns about data breaches. Since Apple implemented similar changes, almost all iPhone users have denied app tracking.
As a result, companies that used cookies for customer research are now facing transformation. For future corporate initiatives, ensuring transparency in privacy use and providing choices for recipients of advertisements will be crucial.
In thinking about the structure of companies and consumers from the perspective of privacy, I strongly feel the weight of increasing information literacy. An easygoing attitude like “I don’t really understand, so I’ll just go with the flow” might cause us to drown in the tides of this big era.
To actively manage information and enjoy maximum benefits, we need to stay sensitive to the moves of tech companies.
Whose Data Protection Is It For?
Data protection regulations are being developed in various countries, and safeguarding privacy in the digital space is a crucial topic.
However, there are voices questioning the existing laws. Researchers from Texas A&M University point out that current US data protection laws restrict data usage for the public good while allowing it for profit purposes.
For example, due to limitations on the use of health data, public health agencies have sometimes been unable to access crucial information during the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar challenges are faced by doctors and researchers.
Of course, strict regulations on health data can be understood, given its sensitivity. However, a survey of about 500 US residents showed a favorable response to data usage for public health and research purposes.
On the other hand, the most negative opinions were collected regarding data usage by companies for profit purposes. However, the use of personal information in the business scene is widely practiced under lenient regulations.
This highlights the discrepancy between the rules set by the government and the preferences of the people regarding data usage.
Addressing this gap will be the first step towards realizing the proper protection and utilization of data for the public good.