Beware Big Brother? More like Big Bot… and his buddies

February 23, 2021
Rebecca LaChance
Toy robot

As many people grow more concerned with the ways their data privacy is at risk, there remains a lack of general awareness of exactly why we need to worry. We all know it’s creepy when we suddenly get ads for Mummy and Me classes after buying one baby shower gift. But in the end, as Gilad Edelman points out, “There is no human being snooping through your laundry, just a machine trying to sell you more stuff.”

Still, those voyeuristic machines comprise just part of the system that, when combined with  social networking, create a data-driven economy that puts consumers at risk. We need to look past ourselves and realise that this data mining and the way the social networks manipulate their algorithms to keep users engaged is flawed on a systemic level. In a world where perspectives grow increasingly polarised, our tracked online behavior is being used in ways that are changing the face of privacy as we know it-- far beyond just targeted advertising.

It’s no longer just a question of what companies know about us (let’s assume they know too much), but how their manipulation of that data changes their interactions with us and society as a whole. 

Technology has brought the Truman Show to life. We think we are acting of our own free will, mostly unaware that our actions and our lives are being directed by the AI that interprets what we might or should like or buy. It’s shaping our buying habits, our political views, our consumption of news and culture, and in no way is it broadening any of them. Rather it is building a digital bubble around us designed to narrow our choices, use our voices and take our money from us. 

Are we even in the driver’s seat anymore?

What does it mean to become a collection of data instead of a living, breathing, changeable human being?

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