Everyone I know has a story about how their phone is spying on them. This usually has to do with how they started seeing ads in their news feed that pertain to something that they said or did offline that was somehow being picked up by our devices and used to target advertising at us. But if you think about it there is no way in which telephone companies can do that - or will even want to. It costs too much and is not worth the effort. What seems like personalised surveillance always has another explanation.
When measures being put in place to prevent third-party cookies from tracking individuals across the internet, companies that relied on these cookies to deliver personalised services had to find workarounds. Privacy activists are concerned that all this does is concentrate power in the hands of fewer gatekeepers. We can use this opportunity to move away from advertising as the business model for the internet and explore the subscription model.
The WhatsApp hack involving NSO has highlighted the urgent need for a digital surveillance framework in India. While law enforcement agencies demand access to encrypted messages, the incident demonstrates the risks of creating backdoors in communication platforms. Preserving civil liberties and maintaining robust security should be prioritized over short-term safety measures.
The internet, originally designed for data collection and surveillance, faces a credibility crisis due to its misuse for manipulating public opinion. Its origins trace back to Hollerith’s punch card tabulators, which evolved into a government surveillance tool. Despite historical protests against its potential for “computerized people manipulation,” the internet’s utility has consistently outweighed concerns, leading to its current indispensable status. Yet, recent scandals like Facebook-Cambridge Analytica highlight ongoing tensions between its benefits and the risks of data misuse.
If the use of biometrics like fingerprints and iris scans for identity raises concerns about personal privacy, facial recognition poses a far greater threat. Unlike other biometrics, faces are easily captured, and the lack of regulation and rapid advancement of technology expose individuals to the risk of active surveillance.