Big Tech and Data Privacy: How much are you giving?

It all started for me in 2004 while I was in college. I was at a large university and word of a website called Facebook was spreading around campus. It was only for college students, and all you had to do was have a college email to join. It was a lot of fun because you could create a profile, meet new people, and keep in touch with high school friends. Little did I know that this would be the first of many times that I would willingly give my data to the big tech companies without hesitation. It was so easy and it provided a convenient service, so I didn’t even consider the implications.

 With technology constantly innovating and new conveniences being provided, hundreds of millions and sometimes billions of people are lining up to give away private information about themselves. This information includes everything from your birthday and location, to dining and music preferences, and beyond. Not only have the types of data users are putting on big tech platforms expanded over time, so has the user count. Large platforms such as Facebook now have approximately 360 million users, Twitter has around 120 million, over 500 million people are said to regularly access Instagram, and billions of people access Google’s variety of platforms. Big tech companies have slowly inoculated the public into giving more and more data, and now they’re taking it to another level.

 With the advent of Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home devices, Big Tech companies now have the ability to listen to conversations and everything else that happens in your home. With its Portal device that allows you to video call with family from the convenience of your home, Facebook now has the ability watch what happens in your home. With the commercialization of home security cameras that have easy to use software that make setup convenient, companies can gain even greater visual access to your home.

 With greater technological capability has also come a heightened awareness and concern for data privacy. From Amazon employees actively listening to conversations and other private moments, to law enforcement officials subpoenaing records of big tech companies, it’s clear that our data is as vulnerable as ever. Given the exposure to our private lives that we have allowed and the risks that exposure now presents, we must ask ourselves: how much of our privacy are we willing to give up?