When it comes to the choice between convenience and privacy, very few people can honestly pick one over the other. Most of us want to have both and we have created this mentality in our heads that we can have both, while reality is, the two cannot be mutually exclusive.
Data has become the new gold, everyone is mining it, everyone wants to use it to their benefit. All this begun with the age of the internet and online marketing, social media and our constant laziness (you will see my point).
A great example is that almost every app we use on the daily requires access to our location data. A permission we give and then “cleverly” turn off our location services – unknown to us that the app will use our data connection to determine our location anyway.
A necessary evil
Take Uber for instance. The taxi-hailing app hit headlines after they announced that they would be tracking your location for a few metres after you got off a cab. Users were up in arms but Uber argued that this was meant to serve their customers better.
If Uber knows exactly where you are after you get off your cab, they can use that data to direct their drivers where to wait for potential customers. This means that when you are about to leave, you will get an Uber much faster because there were a couple “hanging around”. Happy? Oh, so now you are?
For those who have booked their flight tickets online recently, you have probably received a notification from Google on the day of your travel, informing you that you should leave at a certain time if you are to make it to the airport on time.
As creepy as that is, it probably saved you a lot of hustle. Because Google can access your emails (please don’t argue this in the comments section), access your location data and have traffic information, that is why it can alert you when to leave. Convenience.
The trade-off between convenience and privacy is a necessary evil. We want to use these services for free and don’t want to offer anything else as a form of payment. That cannot work. Companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter thrive on user data. That is why they give us great apps for free, so that we can keep using them and give them more data.
We are cheap, let’s not even argue about that – we are so cheap, we could not pay the $1/year WhatsApp was asking of us. Our cheapness is what has pushed developers to mine our data because they know the moment they charge us for their app, we bolt.
Anonymity and control
We ran a short poll and we got very interesting results. Majority of you said that you prefer privacy over convenience but quite a good number said they would forgo privacy and enjoy convenience only if the data collected was not linked back to you.
Research has shown that most people have no problem giving up their data, if it is their choice to do so. However, the truth is, companies have realized this and now they just make it seem like you have the choice.
Did you know that Facebook receives info about every web page you visit while logged-in to the social media platform and they also know every process you undertake in apps you’ve accessed into using your Facebook credentials?
Twitter has a list of all apps you have installed on your phone and probably knows how kinky or boring you really are. Google, hmmm, let’s not go there. Mother Google probably knows me better than I know myself.
The amount of data about you in servers around the world is overwhelming. The reason Facebook is so enjoyable every day more than the previous is because the company gets to know you a little more everyday. They know what you like to see and read and that is what they will show you.
If you were to delete all the data about you from the internet, you’d be surprised how boring Twitter can be, how many awful videos are on YouTube and how hard it would be to find relevant updates on Facebook.
We are in too deep
We might argue that we deserve some privacy, that Google should not be trailing you everywhere you go online, but you already gave up all your rights. Terms and Conditions? We never read those. They are too long (the laziness), too complex and furthermore, they only have two options, are you in or out?
But you want in. You want to laugh at memes, you want to know to whom that unknown number belongs to, you want to know what’s trending and so you sell your soul to the devil… “I have read and understood the terms and conditions”.
Truth be told, we are headed to a data driven future. Our household items will be connected to our cars that will, in turn, be connected to other cars and many more things. We cannot escape sharing our data.
Some people might argue that using a VPN is the way to go, but even when using a VPN, your data still goes through a server and you have no idea what that “person” will do with your data and real identity.
Here’s my advice to you, embrace your lack of privacy. It will save you a lot of stress. The damage is already done, the internet knows too much and we rely too much on it, so we can’t kill it. On a creepier note, things are going to get worse in terms of privacy.