Do Our Digital Lives Matter?

internet_tracking_1Last week, like so many others, Maarten Albarda upgraded his home devices to Windows 10, he notes in this article in MediaPost. He did so knowing full well that the default settings “basically gave Microsoft access to more or less every keystroke on our computers.” But hey, “it was free!” he adds.

What’s a little more data in the hands of a giant corporation, when every moment we spend online we are targeted, tracked and profiled?

We can blithely assume that all of this is for “advertising” purposes, and giving up a bit of our personal information is the price we pay for convenience. Massive data breaches at the IRS aside, we largely ignore what’s going on behind the scenes.

But Albarda, who was recently the victim of credit card fraud, wonders “To what purpose are the millions of personal data records that have been stolen being used? To go shopping at a Walgreens in Connecticut? Or is there a James Bond-worthy villain at work who, one day, will come out in the open and hold us all ransom?”

Governments, he notes, have intimate access to the mountains of data on us, with the help of the companies that collect it…with our blessing.

“It appears that almost all data-owning companies are playing along with their respective governments in the interest of security or local law compliance — but really, to safeguard their ability to continue to be in business,” he continues.

We allow it happen every time we post on Facebook or check email on our smartwatches. We are complicit in this game, each time we open a browser or log in to our bank accounts. We know it, yet we can’t imagine going back to life before all these conveniences, when paying a bill meant licking an envelope and finding a stamp.

As Albarda asks, is it time to acknowledge that things are out of control? When is enough enough? Why did so many people download Windows 10, just shrugging their shoulders at the data mining built into the program?

“Perhaps we need to acknowledge that things have gotten out of hand,” he suggests. “Perhaps it is time for a concerned citizen’s movement. Here we go: #ourdigitallivesmatter!”

It’s a nice idea, but I don’t think shouting a hashtag is the real answer. If we want change, we need to stop clicking “yes” to terms of service that collect unwarranted info. For real change to happen, we need to stop using apps and programs that collect, store and sell out data. We need to take back control of our own digital lives, and stop assuming that the companies have our best interests at heart. They do not.