With the recent revelations of the invasion of users' privacy and misuse of personal data from the likes of companies such as Facebook, it is inevitable that we, the consumers, are worried. And since these activities seem to be a trend lately, we absolutely should be. A majority of people use Facebook and similar social media services, and it doesn't seem the companies will change their way any time soon. Worrying on its own does not solve the problem however, so what can users do to protect themselves online?
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We are right to be worried about the polarization of public debate, the rise of populism and digital propaganda. It also goes without saying that social media have a growing impact on our politics and society. However, one should be cautious not to confuse observations with explanations.
Does Facebook identify and manipulate your feelings? Is it able to recognize your personality type, habits, interests, political views, level of income? Does it use all the information in order to reach you with personalized ads or sponsored content? You bet!
Technology has changed and keeps dramatically changing our everyday life by transforming the human species to advanced networked societies. To celebrate this digital revolution, 17 May is dedicated to the “World Telecommunication and Information Society Day” (WTISD-17).
by Luigi LIMONE (*)
Panoptykon Foundation co-signed the open letter to the European Commision, regarding the situation in Poland, in which we express our concern with the legislative changes in Poland, that began with undermining with the legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal, but went much further, affecting the full scope of fundamental rights of Polish citizens. Amnesty International, FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), Human Rights Watch, Open Society European Policy Institute, Reporters without Borders and other Polish and international NGOs were among the signees of the letters.
Videos from the Computers, Privacy & Data Protection 2017: The Age of the Intelligent Machines are already available (featuring Katarzyna Szymielewicz, the Panoptykon Foundation president).
“Register your prepaid and get free calls/Internet transfer/win a car” – you can hear from Polish telecom operators, as a reminder and encouragement that all pre-paid SIM cards have to be registered by 1st of February 2017. One could almost think that this is just nicely coordinated campaign of leading telecoms, aimed at collecting a bit more data about their clients in exchange for a bonus. Nothing new under the sun in the data-driven world? Well, not exactly. A real stake in this data collection effort is to increase control over all users of telecommunication networks in Poland, with particular focus on foreigners. The demand for more data, this time, came not from the market but directly from the policing arm of the state.
Governments do not like being watched. Nevertheless, it has became common in developed democracies to support independent media and watchdog organisations, sometimes even with dedicated public funds. Wise governments know that listening to justified and neutral criticism is a way to survive past the next elections. The Polish government has clearly decided to follow another path.