Data Privacy and Censorship
Over the last week, news has surfaced indicating that American firms who are conducting business in China, i.e. Google, Yahoo, have been subject to hacking attacks which have been rumored to start at the state level. Given the complexity of search engine marketing and their ability to understand our personal interests, purchasing trends, and navigation behaviour, it is somewhat frightening to know that our information may be accessible by anyone – particularly the goverment. While the information age has contributed to our quality of life and overall productivity, it has also introduced several new forms of risk, that while not immediately diconcerting, may result in overall violations in freedom or privacy. In the pursuit of understanding clients and competitors, to better serve them, we have in essence created a system that tracks and monitors every buying trend or customer interest. Unfortunately, while this data can have an extremely useful purpose in selective marketing, it can also generate bias and result in discrimination. An example of this would be if your health provider had access to your online health search trends or even access to your credit card bills which would indicate potentially what kind of foods you eat, how much you drink, and whether or not you smoke. All in all, these technologies have been designed to “improve”, but such technologies can and do come with a consequence.
I am quite proud of the fact that Google is willing to sacrifice market share in China in order to secure data privacy and influence public policy. I am still a bit concerned about the censorship of content in China; however, over time the protectionist policies should mutate as globalization and Western trends continues to influence Chinese policy.
Below I have posted a few videos on data privacy and censorship. This topic is of particular interest to me, so please comment with any thoughts.
As always, a few follow up questions to this topic…
What are the long term implications of information censorship?
How concerned are you about your personal information?
Are there any innovative options to reduce your informational footprint?