Orwell couldn’t imagine it: what the monopoly on personal data can bring to

Bulat Ganiyev from Technocracy over black and bright side of the world where data rule everything

Orwell couldn’t imagine it: what the monopoly on personal data can bring to Photo: Maksim Platonov

We even don't think about what we transmit by pushing the button ''I accept terms'' while installing software. How do companies that already have 80% of information about you use our data? As a fan of technology and progress, Bulat Ganiyev is concerned about the careless attitude of Internet users to personal data. In a column written for Realnoe Vremya, he tells who is responsible for violation of a person's freedom in the world where data are new oil.

Talking about technological collapses of the future is usually a thankless task. We create a picture of the future and make forecasts based on the knowledge that is topical when the forecast was made. In fact, revolutionary changes are often spontaneous. For instance, in the late 19 th century, people in New York feared that the city would sink in horse dung due to an increased number of horses as transport. The problem with transport really arose – but not as it should have been.

I'm writing this text to draw attention to the underestimated problem of mass collection of personal data. Carelessness in this matter threatens to disrupt such values as a person with his rights, opinion, interests and freedom of choice. I wouldn't like to wake up in such a world one day.

Like any other problem linked with technological progress, the problem of personal data is within the scope of ethics and law, not technologies. Nuclear energy can be a weapon or benefit depending on a person's decisions. As species, we can make an evolutionary leap so on the basis of data collection and processing and manipulate society in the interests of those who aggregate these data.

Just imagine a scenario where all data collected from your smartphones, smartwatches, glasses, lenses, chips implanted under the skin and micro-robots in your blood system. Your virtual help (for instance, Siri) gives you personalised advice in every sphere of your life. You don't need a personal coach, nutritionist, psychologist, financier any more. Your personal artificial intelligence in the pocket will do the job better than any expensive specialist.

Just imagine a scenario where all data collected from your smartphones, smartwatches, glasses, lenses, chips implanted under the skin and micro-robots in your blood system. Your virtual help (for instance, Siri) gives you personalised advice in every sphere of your life. Photo: motherboard.vice.com

First invulnerable world monopoly

As species, we will get a possibility to evolve consciously, not blindly, for the first time. They are super humans who are united by a general system of the global brain where every person reaches the summit of his intellectual capabilities, physical and emotional forms.

Imagine a reverse scenario where your data don't belong to you. Data collection and processing are controlled by a small group of companies or the country. The behaviour of the masses and one person is predictable with a higher probability. Attempts to hold a meeting that contradicts the data monopolist's position are nipped in the bud. Moreover, the society, in general, doesn't have dissent because the information field that transmits necessary ideas is created on the basis of data. Dissent is impossible because the right to make up thoughts doesn't belong to you. The whole monopoly on ideas that you should make something up, make the first steps, how people will know about it and those whose services you use will fulfil it. Monopoly on data is possible, the first invulnerable monopoly in the world. Orwell couldn't imagine it.

A small group of companies that collects and processes a big part of data is an obvious problem. The USA where FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) collects over 80% of data from digital channels is a bright example. These five companies should agree, and it can reformate the society within the scope of interests of their board of directors.

In the USA, I knew that closed conferences for IT giants where joint strategies in certain markets really exist. It's a balance of forces in itself – obviously, in favour of usual users.

We think it's fine that we automatically accept the user's terms to work with a programme while installing new software. However, one should think, and it becomes clear that this model doesn't have alternatives. I'm not offered to accept terms partially, I'm not given a possibility to pay, so that data about me won't be collected. Penetration of some services into our life is so wide that not using it means to be outside the circle of your friends. Big companies understand the value of data and use the digital illiteracy of the masses. It shouldn't be forgotten that free services are big businesses that must show income. If you don't pay money, it means you pay with data.

''There were several cases at the peak of popularity of Pokemon Go when maniacs attracted kids with the virtual bait.'' Photo: cnet.com

Pokemon Go as bait for maniac

There is some irony that people spread private data with pleasure. Each time posting photos of their kids with their school's geographical tag, young mums make their kid a target for a potential plotter. In the USA, a witness under cover stopped being anonym in a social network, was found and killed. There were several cases at the peak of popularity of Pokemon Go when maniacs attracted kids with the virtual bait. Nobody tells you about your rights, but the reality is that everything you post can be used against you.

Society started to realise the situation and react to it. Thanks to Edward Snowden's deed, many thought of it in the world. The technological market reacts to the situation by generating safe services. TOR browser, messengers that use encryption, Blockchain (particularly Bitcoin), development of VPN services, Touch and Face ID technologies – they all tell that society starts to understand that they should be more careful about personal data. Big brands, for instance, Apple already started to stress in ads of its products that they store the user's data on his device or that data are encrypted by a reliable algorithm.

Time to protect digital assets

Ecological friendliness became a standard in production one day. Inviolability of personal data without the user's thoughtful approval perhaps will become such a standard in the IT industry.

In this matter, the country plays a key role. It needs to actively supervise the problem of data not to allow a technological collapse. If there is a developed legal base in the rights of material property, the sphere of the right of possession to personal digital assets needs to be no less developed. There are not bad and good technologies and companies. It's natural to try to conquer the market completely. Game rules in the data market need to be introduced. Not to allow the formation of monopolist structures. To provide conditions where users' data won't be used against them. As an owner of several IT companies, technocrat and transhumanist, I believe that technologies are for the good. To refuse technological progress is to change our human essence. In the technology race, it's important to keep in mind that its main sense is to save humankind and human inside.

By Bulat Ganiyev