What is your understanding of legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context? Do you have a better understanding of your internet identity? In 1996, John Perry Barlow laid out his manifesto, the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, in which he encapsulated a philosophy flowing through the heart of worldwide web(www). His was a vision that would come to dominate the internet today.  

We unknowingly leave behind such an elaborative amount of data trail on the internet, based on the networks we are on, which in most cases always lead to accurate predictions of what phone plans we use. Collect all these data points and combine them with all of our other devices -- smart TVs, fitness trackers, cookies that stalk us across the web -- and there exists an ambient, ongoing accumulation of our habits to the tune of about 2.5 quintillion (that's a million trillion) bytes of data per day. Sometimes that data gets spliced, scattered and consolidated across a web of collaborators, researchers and advertisers. Just in the past few months, Facebook was reported to have asked hospitals, including Stanford University School of Medicine, to share and integrate patients' medical data with its own (the research project has since been put on hold).

Such is the dominance of this philosophy that it has spawned into a new generation of, dataism. The central principle of this dogma is the free flow of data, unrestricted and unregulated. This libertarian view of information uniquely sought to attach freedom to a concept – the flow of information – rather than to a human liberty. It provided the ideological architecture for the internet that we know today – ubiquitous and pervasive, that leaves a data trail in its wake. We have even devised new ways of collecting these types of data, where an organization would basically create an engaging game that would collect data based on the decisive actions on the game and use these information to connect the dots about your lifestyle and how you'd react in certain situations.

In short, the close relationships we have with our devices are not monogamous. But what's a privacy-valuing citizen who still wants or needs to partake in our fabulously networked 21st-century society to do? Maybe we should introduce this in our academic system to enlighten everyone at a very young age on the importance of the amount of data we leave behind. As it seems to be getting out of control and it will come to a personal decision, on how much information about us, do we want others to know.

Do we really have control of our data as we are promised?

You must have come across a privacy policy that states that you have full control over your data and can access it whenever you want. That's okay, so you are given access to your personal information whenever you may need it, you are basically being allowed to click the down button then your data will be archived and sent to your email address. Pretty cool, huh, but is that enough? No it's not enough! I am worried about what you do with it whenever I am not looking, which is by the way  never. Giving you access to your data doesn't guarantee your privacy, when these organizations also have full access and control to it and keep devising new ways to use it without your direct consent.

Sometimes you just have to look up.
Photo by Joshua Sortino / Unsplash

There likely could not be a more timely moment for the public to care about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the European Union's superlatively complex, contested, sweeping data-privacy law that came into force on May 25th. Its key rights include access to personal data, explanations of the algorithms that shape citizens' lives, portability (or moving your data from one company to another) and deletion. Years in the making, it affects any global organization's business in the European Union, leading companies worldwide to spend millions of dollars bringing their privacy standards into compliance, in some cases standardizing their practices outside the EU too.

This is not to question the importance of technological advances. The digital revolution and the use of data have given us tremendous benefits. Rather, we need to be vigilant and active to ensure that “people’s fundamental privacy rights are not sacrificed in the name of innovation”. Those rights have too often been ignored, and it is taking a groundswell of citizen activism to flip the script and hold power to account by individuals asking for their data and determining its use. We are at a watershed moment of a citizen-led demand for data rights, with the hallmarks of a new civil rights movement enmeshed within it. However, the efficacy of any laws depends on individuals relying on them. The gift is in your hands. This is your data; these are your rights.

Maybe we shouldn't be so honest with the internet by not giving it every truth about us, 'cause then we wouldn't be as vulnerable to the system as we currently are and continue to be.

The question is, how would we then get to benefit from the amazing solutions that have come into existence mainly 'cause of the availability of these data?

Most of these organizations that collect these data(every organization) are quite genuine and open about their intent, to use this data for a better course and help improve our lives by customizing the experiences they offer, but there are always some downfalls to our "so reliable" systems.

Late last year Google announced about the need to shut down one of their products, Google Plus, due to breach of personal accounts data that had been leaked to the wrong hands. If you've ever used any of the Google resources, your data is automatically linked to all other Google products. For instance, if you only use Gmail, then you by default have a YouTube account, and how many websites out there have you gladly and always willingly clicked on the sign-up with Google?

In conclusion, our data plays a very key role in improving our daily lifestyles, and without it, we wouldn't be able to easily sell things online to the right clients, and or we wouldn't be able to study the patterns of our lives. So the goal is to ensure that before giving out any of your information, make sure that you trust whoever you give it to, simply by verifying their privacy policy, and this is the most boring part of it.

Good luck!