Zachary Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
A few days ago, I heard a song on the radio that I wanted to find the title and artist of. Ignoring the fact that I was driving, I pulled out my phone and attempted to blindly unlock it and get to Shazam. Usually there is a big button to press to Shazam a song, but, me not looking at my phone caused me to push something else.
So then I was in the settings application and the song was over, so no one was happy. The culprit here was, of course, the Shazam application asking me if it could track my location (clearly not the fact that I was driving and using my phone). Wait, why does an application that identifies the title and artists of songs need to know where I am?
According to their website, Shazam only collects location information “to help users remember when and where they tagged a song or TV show.” Oh cool, I didn’t know I could Shazam television shows. Anyway, I don’t want this app to know where I am all the time, but every single time I open it, it asks me if I want to allow it to track my location. Issues regarding holes in the security system of iOS devices have been a major topic in the tech community, from browsers being not secure enough and allowing people to steal your information to applications that actively take your contact information and store it somewhere else. When you live in this age, your data is everywhere, and companies want the most information about you they can get. Data mining is a pervasive and legal act, but that doesn’t mean that it should be.
Privacy, it would seem, is nothing more than a filler word to make us seem secure in the use of our devices. I’ve said before the conventional notion of privacy is dead. In many ways, this rings true, as we put more and more of ourselves online and into the public sphere. Internet searches, emails, text messages, status updates and so on are all part of the collection process, and not just by the NSA. Companies like Google have made it standard practice to sell massive amounts of data about you. No, it’s not seriously personal data like passwords or social security numbers; instead, they are in the business of marketing data.
A recent article in the New York Times asks a very pertinent question, “Has privacy become a luxury good?” It examines the multitude of ways our data is used and explains the rising cost of keeping all of that data private. With the hundreds — if not thousands — of companies seeking to learn more about you, it’s difficult to shelter the information you want to keep private. It has reached a point where the individual no longer has control or enough power over their own information dissemination.
This is exactly where the federal government needs to step in. Not as a regulation of this data collection, but instead as a defender of the rights of individuals, empowering them to limit the spread of their personal information. The Obama administration tried to push something in 2012 called the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, and so far, it hasn’t gotten anywhere. The case for an expansion of the protections of our rights online stems from a basic understanding of the nature of interacting online.
Our Internet use is, essentially, an extension of our bodies and minds. Basically, there is no difference between the self in terms of the human and the self in terms of the Internet. Yes, we post things on Facebook and make them public, but this in no way means your information should be used to exploit you as a consumer. The article mentioned above put it succinctly, “If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product.”
I — as someone who uses the Internet — wish to be not a product, thank you very much. For example, just as companies are not allowed to watch me in my home or as I go from place to place, they should not be allowed to watch where I go online, because what is the difference? In terms of the Internet, the individual has no protection from this sort of tracking and subsequent data mining. And regardless of whether or not a person is alright with this activity by companies, the default should be that none of this information is collected. That is empowering the individual, as we should have to opt-in to data collection, not opt-out.
This is Zachary Antoyan, hating that the crow outside of my window won’t shut up. Caw caw caw caw caw caw caw caw caw caw caw caw caw caw! Have a nice week everyone.