All thanks to big data, today companies around the globe know more about us than we know about ourselves. The most effective way for consumers to take back control of their digital footprint is through VPNs which allow them to use encryption and protect data. In 2018, CA (Cambridge Analytical) scandal showed how likes and statuses updates of user’s Facebook used to influence the US electoral procedure. In the United Kingdom, they used user’s Facebook account data to influence the outcome of the Brexit vote. It revealed that CA was harvesting data not directly from their accounts but also diving into their friend's and families' accounts with the purpose to create a detailed snapshot of their broader contact networks.
Data Analytics and VPNs
Though the CA scandal was eye-opening, it is only an example of how it is used to influence consumers. If you include data being collected by Google, data broker firms, insurance companies, advertising, and marketing firms, and many others, then you begin to understand that how the private sector is taking away user’s privacy. For now, it is considered to be a form of currency by data privacy experts, this is the reason the service applications we use online are very happy to give us their services for free to get a piece of the pie.
Personal data is the middleman
As data generally is used to predict how people think, what they may buy, what are their political or religious leaning and even their sexual appearances. The more data company has regarding a person, the more sensitive and detailed information it figures regarding them. The most frightening is secondary inferences which seemingly trivial data can be used to ascertain. A few days back, a study coming from UC Berkeley revealed that how Artificial Intelligence can analyze data from fitness trackers and step monitors to configure certain health-related data regarding people. The researchers agree this kind of data needs to be especially protected with new legislation otherwise firms shall devise cruel ways to discriminate against people for the sake of profit.
Security, Data, Surveillance, and Privacy
For now, it has been almost 6 years since Edward Snowden's revelations revealed the vast scope of government surveillance in the West, from that time, many governments have passed obligatory data retention laws which force ISPs to retain web browsing histories and metadata on behalf of the government. As a result, many data harvesting practices done illegally have been shrouded in legitimacy. The government is using data retention to keep an eye on their citizens in Australia, UK, and many European Union nations such as Romania, Poland, Czech Republic, and Brazil to name a few. In America, the patriot act and the cloud act as well as FCC’s decision to permit ISPs to sell web browsing histories to third parties have enrolled a user’s right to privacy this creating a framework of surveillance.
Treaties like Five Eyes and greater nine and 14 Eyes agreements allow governments to snoop from one another, creating loopholes for gathering data and processing throughout the West. In nations such as Russia same laws like recently amended Yarovaya legislation allows the Kremlin to access a lot of personal data. Government access to citizen data for surveillance reasons is a problem around the globe and it is only growing worse, in countries such as the Netherlands which for some time now was very good for data privacy, new laws are being made to provide the government with new surveillance powers.
Awareness is key - Again!
For people, a high-end awareness of government snooping started by Snowden and WikiLeaks; the constant barrage of mega-hacks on firms such as T Mobile, Marriott, Yahoo, and many others; new legislation like California’s CCPA and GDPR; and scandals including firms like CA and Facebook are all creating awareness regarding big data. Consumers are waking up, and there is a growing trend among the users of the internet to seek out products that help them to protect their digital privacy.
What role do VPN's play in Big Data
VPN is an online service through which people can encrypt all the data which comes and goes from their machines. A secure VPN can be used including Orbot for PC to shore up a user’s DNS requests so that their ISP has no way to detect their web browsing habits. Strong military-grade VPN encryption is used to provide an unattainable level of digital privacy. It is important for stopping ISPs from being able to snoop not only the customer browsing habits but also their metadata. Countries in which data retention laws are implemented stop the ISPs from getting into users' data on behalf of the government.
For people in the US, this is the best form of security for stopping ISPs from collecting and selling web browsing habits to third parties. Also, keep in mind that inspite of much false advertising, they provide digital privacy, not anonymity. This is a subtle but important difference. If you use a VPN service to access an online service you login to actively, your ISP shall not know that you are using that service.
However, the act of signing in and using it, allows Facebook or any other service to know who you are. Keep in mind that VPN cannot protect you from any service to which you willingly hand over your data. Moreover, it cannot protect you from malware or phishing attacks. With all this in mind, VPN is only a part to maintain good online cyber-health. They must be used with a good anti-virus package and along with good opsec practices to be sure that all the time you are protecting your data. Internet users need to be sure on what kind of data they should hand over and to who. ISPs are gatekeepers of user’s internet data. They know regarding user’s metadata and browsing habits, the governments have enforced laws because they know this.
Big Data and VPNs - The Future
Users ill at ease with having their privacy invaded by their ISP and government are suggested to join 30% of internet users around the globe that have begun to use VPN services. This shall set them apart from many people, giving them digital privacy so they can use the internet without any fear of being watched. Big Data has also made VPNs more powerful according to a recent study.
Any feedback, opinions, or comments are welcomed below!