30 Mar 2015

Enormous digital trails need new privacy peace

Google’s Eric Schmidt was on a panel

30 Mar 2015
World Economic Forum 2015 (Source: Getty)

World Economic Forum 2015 (Source: Getty)

Google’s Eric Schmidt was on a panel at the World Economic Forum in 2015 in Davos. One claim grabbed my attention: “The internet will disappear”. He suggested that the internet as we know it to date will simply disappear in everything you’re wearing or interacting with. It will simply be part of our everday life, all the time.

This is not just a forecast. It’s already real and implemented in dozens of different devices of which you don’t even realize their device functionality.

The interest in privacy is not dying but descending. Are people resigning?

The sensornet is embedded, and you won’t get a switch to turn it off! Wifi, Bluetooth and future technology LTE Direct are “always on”, broadcasting and interacting with our surroundings – with sensors like Nest, Dropcam or Intel’s latest wearable effort “Curie”, a button sized IoT broadcaster. Our phones are mobile data nodes and every touch on the screen adds another string to the data net.

Let me repeat: It’s real, no outlandish thesis!

What’s outlandish is our understanding and current definition of privacy. Google Search presents 5 billion (!) results when searching for “privacy”. More publishing folks write about a dying topic: The search trend is descending. Our digital audience is tired of more and more indifferent news or concerns about privacy, privacy hacks, leaks, stolen e-mails. So do I.

Privacy search trend is descending (Source: Google)

Privacy search trend is descending (Source: Google)

“Privacy as we knew it in the past is no longer feasible,” Harvard computer science professor Margo Seltzer is quoted as saying. “How we conventionally think of privacy is dead. It’s not coming back”. Let’s bury the time when we could argue about personal data, data storage, using our digital path for advertising or re-targeting, branded stories based on our activity feeds.

It takes at least two to design privacy

Entrepreneurs, behavior engineers and developers like us at Compass.to are at the forefront and responsible to create new feasible privacy ideas and adopting security by design. It’s in our hand to engineer a way where our audience sees we’re serious when promising “privacy sensitiveness”. When I say engineering, I mean brainstorming, designing, coding new approaches to deal with users’ digital peace. It’s in our hands to lay ground for this peace. We’re responsible!

The rest of the story belong to the government. We won’t give up on privacy. Nor should governments give up and try to outlaw particular technologies. Don’t blame it on the tools nor the tool makers. As professor Margo Stelzer adds: “The laws surrounding privacy need to be laws about data and usage, not about the technology.” – agreed.

What’s left?

The problem with these well-meaning words is that the consumer internet and the inventors of the sensornet lag behind the needs. We’re about to lose the last remaining consumer trust if we’re not ready to start inventing a new security, privacy and consumer control – post-Snowden.

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