NORDIJA INSIGHTS · APRIL 2021
Should we be afraid of giving away our data?
Machine learning and AI are some of the big buzz words these days. With these has come a need for getting as much data as possible, since the more data, the better use for it. And really, this data can be anything. It is remarkable what kind of problems and predictions can be made based on different kinds of data. It can be anything from helping the environment or improve efficiency in production facilities to something as simple as making a movie recommendation.
This also means, if possible, your data is collected no matter what you do. Whenever you are browsing a web page, whether, for shopping or looking up a new recipe, you are leaving your footprint, which means valuable data for this webpage and maybe others. I am sure you have noticed that every time you go to a webpage, you have to accept cookies to continue looking at its content. And sure, you have a bit of a choice, since you can say “only allow necessary cookies'', instead of allowing all cookies. And, of course, we do accept at least these necessary cookies to continue our browsing.
But what are these necessary cookies? What data are you really giving, and how is it used? These are some of the questions rarely answered when agreeing to these cookies on a webpage.
As a data scientist, of course, I myself find this data interesting. I am finding tendencies and behaviors which can be really helpful. The things you can get out of data are simply remarkable and interesting.
But I also have to admit, watching documentaries as Netflix’s “The social dilemma” makes me want to shut down all my social media accounts and go offline. In this documentary, they really show how much power webpages and companies can have when they have your data. The more they know about you and your behavior on the internet, the better they can customize their services just for you, stripping you from your most valuable asset - your time.
This could make you question: Should we all just shut down everything and never give away any data about ourselves? But what about all the perks of using data?
I really think that data is the solution for many problems, and it would be a shame to throw away all the great possibilities data can be used for. But I also think it is great that the collecting of data is starting to get questioned, such that our data can be used for the greater good without being abused.
Of course webpages and companies are taking advantage of our data, to be able to show us more interesting things and make us buy more of their products. After all, their goal and purpose are to make you buy their products and spend your time on their webpage instead of another. And when we think about it, we all know that this is what is going on.
I believe that social behavior has allowed us to be sucked into all the social media and makes us spend hour after hour checking our phones and miscellaneous web pages. We have to adjust to this relatively new world of technology and all the possibilities it has brought. Right now, we are so drawn to it that it is easy for the web pages to use our data to exploit this weakness.
I also do believe that there should be greater transparency when you are giving away your data. We should have a say in how much of our data we want to give away such that we can see exactly what our data is used for so we have more control over it. In this way, it will seem safer for the users to give away their data.
At the end of the day, giving away your data can be quite scary, especially when the exact use of it is not always clear. But I believe that we just need to find the right balance between getting the needed data, the transparency, and our behavior.