Soul Catchers: How IT Giants Become the Largest Owners of Your Personal Information

The more scandals around personal data leaks in the world, the more data is concentrated in the hands of

IT giants. Why do we trust them more and what will this lead to?

Vise of the Regulator and the Magic Wand

A few months ago Google introducedAn opensource tool that will allow companies to collect less data about their users. It will enable companies to collect and analyze big data without identifying users. Google says that developing such a tool is a complex task and their open source solution will simplify the work for programmers, protect user data, and ensure that businesses do not lose the benefits that working with big data provides. A spoon for dinner, considering how many problems have befallen businesses due to the handling of personal data.

What are European, what are now American companiesafraid of data leaks like fire. GDPR imposes a fine for unauthorized relations with user data from Europe up to EUR 20,000,000 or up to 4% of the annual world turnover for the previous financial year, whichever is greater.

For the first year of the law, EU authorities received144 376 requests and complaints about the handling of data and revealed 89 271 violations. In total, fines amounted to 56 million euros. 50 million euros fell on Google, the French authorities considered that the company violates the GDPR.

In June, the airline broke the search engine recordBritish Airlines - $230 million for leaking personal data of 380,000 passengers, including bank card numbers and CVVs. As ZDNet writes, this may be just the beginning - the regulator has been investigating companies' handling of data for several years. Perhaps new records are just around the corner. Companies, in turn, have to completely rebuild their work with data. According to one of the editors’ own sources in the microcredit business, it took the company about six months to bring its work into compliance with the GDPR.

A similar law was passed in California. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will enter into force on January 1, 2020, it is considered softer and applies only to companies with a profit of $ 25 million per year, and the size of the fine is about $ 7500 and only upon evidence of misuse of data.

>Clients from the USA and Europe are a tasty morsel formost companies in the Western world. Business is becoming increasingly digital, so even a small cafe in a corner of Europe with its own loyalty program could potentially fall under the scope of the GDPR and is trying to protect itself with explanatory leaflets offline. Therefore, Google with their new opensource project will come in handy even for small businesses. The more users it has, the better the algorithms will work. And the less likely the company will be accused of spying on users in the future.

The secret is in the public domain

On the other side of this story areusers. They are scared too. For many years now, personal data has been leaking from dating sites, hotels, ticket booking services, operator clients and television. Moreover, open access databases are regularly becoming known. Last year, Alibaba’s database of 10 million clients leaked online, 2.3 million clients from American Express India, 5.3 million from Nixi Technology, 60 million US voters from the Elasticsearch database (source). The Google search engine knows what 80% of the world's population is looking for, how they do it and how they react to the information they find. For Google, users are a commodity.

The user already knows that his data is valuable to companies and does not want to share it. You never know what will happen to them. In these realities, slogans of this kind go well.

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“What happened on the iPhone remains on the iPhone”

As well as promises of improved privacy from Google and other giants. Or that they do better than obscure cafes, shops, etc.

Perhaps the most resonant scandal aroundopen data was the leak of data from 50 million Facebook accounts in favor of Cambridge Analytica. The story was originally reported in The New York Times and The Guardian about a year and a half ago. It was spread by the media all over the world, and for many months new facts about this case emerged. As a result, in June of this year the company was fined $5 billion.

Get to know the story around the gatheringpersonal data in Russian is possible in an interview on Liga.Tech with CEO of Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix. Knicks tells him how the company collected data. Facebook has provided a huge database of information about user preferences. But besides this, she had to do a serious job to collect data about users. Nyx says that they worked with several databases, some of which 4000-5000 data elements per user, tied to his name and contacts. This, for example, a hobby, gender, work, a favorite magazine, a golf club, where the user goes, religious preferences and tastes in food. Then you can only fantasize what else is included in these 4000-5000 elements!

Databases were collected by aggregators. They also contained information about credit cards, loyalty cards, ticket sales systems, social networks, etc.

At the time of the interview in the USA, the opt out principle worked.- that is, the downloaded data is available to companies by default, unless the user indicates otherwise. In the United States, in fact, it is still so, except for California. In Ukraine and in many countries of the world. The EU has protected its users with the GDPR directive. But in fact, the law applies only to those who are willing to handle personal information under the law.

When Apple launched the Apple News + service, wherethe user can read paid publications for $ 9.99, the company, among other things, focused on the fact that user preference data is not transmitted to a third party, and all traffic remains inside the application. Analysts suggest that this will lead to the erosion of media brands and the complication of earnings for them. But what happens on the iPhone remains on the iPhone.

The launch of Instant Articles on Facebook has also becomea headache for publishers - the social network gave priority to issuing materials of this format, and it also closed the traffic within the social network. Even Telegram has its own format for publishing articles inside the service, but here the user at least has a choice on which link to click. And this does not affect the ranking.

When you pay in store with Apple Payor Google Pay, your payment card information is hidden from the store, making it less likely for scammers to steal it. They are stored in partial or encrypted form in different places. Every time you log in using your Google, Facebook and other services on some small dubious resource, you don’t have to worry that it will steal your personal data (if you don’t specify it somewhere) and use it against you. In the best case, he will see from your “footsteps” how you used the site. Google, Facebook, etc. are concerned about data security. They know very well what you do on the Internet all day long. Even in incognito mode.

Even OLX. If you buy something on this site with the “OLX delivery” service, the company that sends the goods to you does not receive your personal financial data. This information is stored on the platform. It's more convenient and safer, says OLX.

When there is so much news about base leaksdata of airlines, travel services and other large and not very business, you just want to store the data somewhere in a warm and comfortable place where no one will get it. The farther, the more IT giants become this place, because they have more and more convenient tools for authorization, payments, aggregation, etc. Now they are becoming the first advocates of privacy.

Medicine is next

Coming soon to huge data sets of behavior inOnline and offline health data sets will be added. Smart wearable electronics, which analyzes the user's health, develops and becomes a more mass product. Medicine is digitized - remote access to specialists appears, health indicators are already being measured remotely in some places.

Your smart bracelet or watch is not enoughhighly licensed to be considered a medical device. But this does not mean that they know little about your health or are inaccurate in measurements. This means only that regulators around the world (especially the USA) do not want problems because of the new category of devices, and manufacturers do not want responsibility, because medical equipment has other, higher requirements for development and production. Therefore, for now, this is just a smart bracelet or smart watch. Without special expectations from him and without his special protection from the outside world. By the way, he most likely passes his data to Google or Apple, because you want to have access to a summary of your lifestyle?

By the way, if you are faced with a choice of whoentrust the storage of your medical personal data to an IT giant like Google or Apple or a local clinic - who are you more likely to trust? Data breaches in the medical field have been named for several years now. In 2015 alone, 253 cases were recorded resulting in data loss of more than 112 million records. Although some of them are associated with unscrupulous disposal of paper media, in the digital world there will be no fewer problems, since data owners - clients of clinics - show that they care who knows about their illnesses.

In the dry residue

Just a few years later, companies likeCambridge Analytica would need to collect far fewer databases to gain access to the same information as in 2015. We tell a lot about ourselves voluntarily, but much has already been written about this and this is a separate topic. But the thing is that today we are transferring more and more data into the hands of one individual IT company. Google or Apple already know where we go, what we look for on the Internet, what and where we buy, what magazines we read, how active our lifestyle is, where we buy tickets, who our neighbors are, where we work, etc. And the point is not even that this data can now be stolen all together from one place. Although this is also important. The fact is that IT giants have turned into real catchers of digital souls. If for a couple of years now it has been customary to say that a smartphone knows more about a person than his closest partner, then now, in fact, they have our digital twin in their hands. A complete digital twin in the hands of several corporations. He will know all our desires, doubts, fears, remember our history better than us, learn how we hold a smartphone, what emoji we send to loved ones and what we feel at this moment. This has never happened in the history of mankind. Which science fiction movie scenario do you think could come to fruition in the near future?