The collection and processing of personal information should not be the dark sides of data activities. They can improve and advance important services. For example,
In the health field, they allow Google to track the spread of diseases globally near real-time through the analysis of research by the Internet users; it is even faster than the WHO.
In traffic, thanks to the Big Data collected by GPS devices and smartphones, we better understand the formation of jams, and it allows us developing algorithms to make reliable predictions of traffic congestion, and to maximize traffic in large urban areas to reduce the production of carbon dioxide.
In addition, new technologies and data analysis profoundly change the lives of disabled people, allowing them to move more easily in our world, giving them more autonomy. Thanks to the sensors around us – camera, microphone, GPS chip, gyroscopes – a smartphone is capable of analyzing the data it receives and to compare them with the available information collected through Big Data, for example to guide a blind person in a city, to recognize a building, a face or even an emotion on a face, read aloud the information boards met and translate all this in real-time.
These examples of useful and reasonable use of information collected via modern technology show that the analysis and exploitation of data is not problematic, but just lack of supervision. It is above all the fact that we, as citizens, we are not fully aware of the collection of our data, and we do not know what data is collected and who is going to use the data.
What can we do?
In our history, when the new technological innovations are not easy to understand, we will look at them with a sense of caution, or sometimes, they become marvel. This little suspicious mindset is just become natural in response to the difficulty for us to manage new technologies. So what to do to change that?
As citizens, our role is to be vigilant, without panic or sink into paranoia. The issue is certainly important and it is easy to pour into sensationalism. So, what can we do?
- We can already protect our data with adequate software. For example, some tools that can control the dissemination of information collected by cookies. Some software tools can show you all the companies that monitor you when you visit a website, and allow you to learn more about these companies and the type of data they collect. Some of these applications can even allow you stopping those companies to collect your data.
- We can ask our elected representatives to defend our fundamental democratic freedom to the protection of privacy, in opposing the legalization of mass surveillance. For example, legislations should not allow collection and permanent storage of any data from the behavioral analysis on the web without the consent of the persons concerned, and the law should provide a list of personal data that is not allowed to collect and requires the authorized data to be destroyed after a period of time.
- As parents, we have the responsibility to train our children the problem of personal data exploitation and protection. At the time of cloud computing, we must ensure that the platforms, learning environments, digital teaching aids and other online tools that we provide to our children are comply with the legislation on protection data, especially if these tools are provided by private providers.
- Schools need to better educate students about the value of information they leave on the web. Now almost all the students are using technology and new media; most of them with good technical skills, but they need to be further trained to use technology in rational ways. It is also necessary to educate teachers and provide them with training, resources and time and enable them to address these issues to their students adequately.
Be vigilant not paranoid
Monitoring and data collection are transforming the web and the world we live; but this is not a reason to be paranoid. However, it is important to be vigilant and to understand the developments and technological developments in this area. Our world is gradually becoming more and more connected; Awareness of technologies in our digital world becomes important and necessary.