Mo Data, Mo Problems

A few days ago I had a lively debate about data collection and privacy rights with some family friends which just happened to precede my 8 hour Comm Lead class on the same topic.  I have thought a lot about the collection of my data dating all the way back to when Amazon first notified me that they were going to begin collecting and saving my data.  My reaction was to stop shopping on Amazon.  I’ve since gone back (with a vengeance), but as the collection of data has expanded I have resigned myself to it.  I no longer worry too much about being classified by what I buy, what I watch and which social networking sites I visit.  I assume everything I do or say has found its way into the hands of the Mark Zuckerbergs and Larry Pages of the world.  My view on privacy has evolved, at least for myself, to the “it’s already out there, what am I going to do about it” school of thought.  My belief is that there is so much data out there that I can more or less hide in plain sight.  This seems to align with Adriana Gil Miner’s assertion that 90% of the data in today’s internet was created within the past 2 years.  In order to sift the good from the bad, the true from the false and formulate the right questions to get any real benefit from the wealth of data I’ve left in my wake someone really has to want it, and in my view, if they want it that badly, they’d manage to get it anyhow.

Unfortunately, my cavalier view on data privacy does not extend to my children.  They do not have the legal ability to consent to this data collection, and yet data about them can be scraped from my own web use.  Objectively speaking, I can’t really protect them from being “in the system” and that feels like a violation of their rights.

But rather than long for a world where no data is ever collected, I believe we need to create systems to allow people to remove data that  is inaccurate, is being abused or they simply wish to keep private.  California has recently passed the “Eraser” law to allow children to remove their digital footprints.  This may be the first step in the right direction, but restricting it to children seems to defeat the power of the legislation as a real move forward.

Perhaps the real solution is to allow individuals the right to license our data instead of being passive participants in the collection.  One New York student has taken to sell his own data on Kickstarter.  In doing this he can ensure the accuracy of that data and take an active part in the profits derived from the use.  Perhaps this is the real future.

And while I’ve chosen to focus my class reflection on data collection and privacy, I would be remiss in leaving out how overwhelming impressed I was by the work for the Gate Foundation shown by Ben and Taylor from Wintr.  The ability to winnow the bulk of dry data to identify, craft and clarify a cogent story that would emotionally resonate with viewers while creating an artistic interactive experience that did not dumb down their message balances the impossible triangle of technology, science and art without compromising one side in favor of another.  Kudos!

And then there’s this infographic about infographics which just made me smile.

13 Reasons Why Your Brain Craves Infographics