Data Rights Matter

Big Brother is Alive and Well!

Welcome to Oceania! George Orwell's totalitarian state where the all-seeing-eye of government sees and tracks whatever we might do has long ceased to be fiction—except it isn't only the government that is all-seeing. Big-tech entities have inserted themselves into every aspect of our lives. The abuses of government bodies — taking shortcuts with Fourth Amendment protections to warrantlessly surveil us, examine what we store in our cloud accounts, and worse abuses — make up only a fraction of the digital indignities we must tolerate.

          Illegitimate surveillance activity under the color of authority remains rare, though it happens far more often than we would like to admit. We know that government, all governments, not only the US government, is populated by largely unaccountable rogue operators who surveil us on any pretext. Often this is related to criminal activity, national security, or public safety—the legendary surveillance and abuses of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover pales into insignificance compared to what technology enables today.     

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     Unfortunately, all too often, it serves ignoble political and even personal ends. Unfortunately, however, we are daily, minute-by-minute, second-by-second surveilled. Our privacy is invaded by entities with far less noble intent than protecting the public from criminals.

     We all carry Orwell's Telescreen in our palms. The big carriers monitor our every move and capture and control our communications metadata. The big-data companies parse our every keystroke, our every purchase, our every view, inserting themselves into our every online activity. They monetize our stolen data to sell advertising, but advertising barely touches the surface of the ways they abuse this stolen treasure.

     The advertising ecosystem is rife with fraud, funding international organized crime to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in stolen ad spending, funding cybercrime, and undermining supply chains, impacting human safety and security on a global level.

     But the most Orwellian aspect is the very real instantiation of Thoughtcrime; politically unorthodox thoughts, beliefs, and doubts contradicting the tenets of those in charge. They are unapologetic in their moves to not merely influence but to outright control individuals' perceptions and behaviors. We are no longer free to study objective facts and develop an informed opinion on any given topic. Instead, they inundate us with sanitized "facts" that support the official narrative and blatantly censor "misinformation." We are not allowed to hold an incorrect opinion and must "Crimestop" or self-censor before wrong thoughts make us an unperson in the digital plane. Speaking your mind has become a crime for which you can be blocked, banished, and your livelihood destroyed. If you persist, rage mobs will target you, your family, your home and threaten your person, and if you dare to defend yourself, you risk arrest and imprisonment.

     Big tech unabashedly states that not only do we not own ourselves, but we are nothing more than transient carriers of data, existing as chattel to be mined for our data.

     It is time to take back our data! It is time to instantiate property rights around our personal, private data, treating personal data, as the world already recognizes it, as valuable property, as a fungible property.

     Data is MONEY! Monopolistic megacorporations have built massive empires from stolen personal data. They used deception, seducing individuals to trade their valuable personal data for various trivial services, such as email and other typical cloud-based offerings. Unfortunately, these "free" services come at a staggering expense to the users—not owning the data collected about themselves and not controlling its use. Personal data recklessly traded for free services has propelled a handful of companies to a $5.5 trillion valuation directly from their users' pockets.

      It is time to put an end to this reckless appropriation of personal data. It is time for legal reform to allow the legitimate owners of their data to control how or even whether others may use it and secure their rightful share of the monies earned by legitimately authorized use while protecting against unauthorized use. So write, complain, protest!

     Meanwhile, take it back! Use encryption, avoid the seductive "free" services, use anonymous search engines, encrypted email, encrypt your files, and issue takedowns to the big tech companies wherever your data appears without your permission.

      This, then, is the revolution that needs to happen, not the politically motivated, race-baiting grandstanding pushed by the media.

Data Rights Matter!

Take back your data!