Why I Am Worried About My Personal Data in The Cloud

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Why I Am Worried About My Personal Data in The Cloud

We often see so many of those online personalized ads that we don't take a moment to stop and think about how they got there.

· Cloud Zone ·
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There was a time when I used to have a personal diary, a phone book, and a very personal journal to register my daily activities to save useful information for the future. I shared my phone book with others, but my diary and the journal were personal to me. I tried my best to keep it away from unwanted access.

Later, I started using social media and also bought a smartphone. I started creating a social media image, too. As I was told, my phone kept my data in the cloud, and it was safe from any security breach and all the unwanted access. Despite that, I kept a password to evade that involuntary access to my things, my data. What I knew my smartphone knew. Little did I know that there were other people who could also access my data to a certain extent. They, too, were there in the cloud with the social media or email hosting service providers.

I realized it later when a reliable someone told me that I see only those ads in my search results according to the terms that I have searched on Google. Gmail shows me promotional ads according to the kind of emails I receive. Facebook ads are basically information foisted on me from the people who have paid Facebook. The idea is to show their products to people like me who searched a term, and by any chance, fell in the orbit of their business.

Now I feel that there are people other than me who know better than me what I am looking for in terms of a product or a service.

George Orwell was right when he wrote "1984."

But I’m worried about cloud technology because of various other reasons.

I Create Data Unknowingly

I create some online data unknowingly, and you are no different from me. There is a bakery shop near to my place, so sometimes I place an online order for birthday cakes. Every time I order a birthday cake online, I send a message out there that this guy may or usually does order a cake around this date. The online bakery has saved this data for the future.

It’s a piece of useful information that some people in the line of cake production may find helpful and can capitalize on it by giving some involuntary offers to me around that date.

Companies spend an unreasonable amount of money to get more such data so that they can pitch their product with an apersonalized offer to individual customers at the right time. This is a small example of the intrusion into an individual’s privacy and involuntary use of their information.   

Timing creates the difference when a business is seeking some decision making from its stakeholder. The possibility of a purchase increases if an offer is made close to the time when people are looking for it.

We switch from one service provider to another as for convenience and the availability of options. So, the decision to purchase mainly depends on that offer and yes, the timing. It’s my choice, like many others, to compromise with my most sought after experience over price.

Data analytics has helped to tweak my choice with the help of forced marketing. And the reason behind it is I have unknowingly projected some information about me by my online presence that has eventually helped businesses to measure me in terms of my choices.

Information That Google Keeps

Ever since I stopped keeping a personal diary, I started using an online application to take down notes and reminders. Later came some cloud-based applications that I got acquainted with. Google Keep is one of them. It is attached to my email. Although Google understands that it is a private space for personal usage, and that is why I don’t see any ads on my Google Keep screen. But I’m not sure if Google tracks down those particular-terms or keywords that I have used in my Keep application to show me ads on my email account. Only time will tell.

But the idea of the cloud has made our life a lot easier in other senses, and I guess this is why we pay by sacrificing some of our privacy. The ease and familiarity that comes with cloud-hosted applications are unprecedented. Nobody has seen such applications and software before, but having said that, do we really need to get involved with this much of data on a daily basis? Every activity on the Internet, small or big, is helping churn some data one way or another. We are unknowingly helping businesses to be more accurate in predicting our choices and decisions.

So, in a way, my needs may have an immediate solution with limited benefits that come from the area where I’m predictable. The kind of benefits I seek in my product or service as an individual is addressed as desperate answers from various businesses. But aren't we missing out on the part of innovation here? Do I not deserve something better that is developed after analysis of various data on the product’s part and not only on the factor of my predictability?

I understand there is a market, and it has its own dynamics, but I do not want to pay for something mediocre. Most companies find it difficult to innovate because of market-driven business strategies. I wish whatever data was there in cloud, it could project my urge to find an innovative solution, something better than the former. But it only projecting about some unreliable ideas about my needs.

Compromising Security Over Convenience

Compromising with security over convenience has become a habit ever since I started existing in the digital space. It was my choice, and I accepted those terms and conditions. Social media came with the precursor of networking and sharing. However, other types of data I created by doing product research and searches that define me as a person in a better way. Google knows that persona in terms of my choices.

I really don’t know what those are parameters that make me vulnerable in digital space. I spoke with my friends and colleagues around me, and they said this topic about cloud was still debatable. But if a political party, a business or a service provider tries to measure me through those predictable elements and offer me something that I choose sub-consciously because lack of other choices, then I guess I have lost it.

My presence in the digital space is more often than not about engagement while I look for more information. Cloud adds to that convenience when I keep my data in it with the belief that data centers have taken measures to keep my data safe from any breach. Social media is another medium where I share about myself through pictures and text.

I prefer to complain about the bad service on the Twitter handle of the service provider than writing an email to them. Some people choose Facebook for the same. Have I compromised security over convenience? I’m concerned about it because I’m getting calls from people who know my name, my birthday and the car I drive. They want to sell one thing or another that I’m least interested in. They have predicted my choices through my previous ones and my communication history over social media. And if I’m not wrong, this whole social media is a cloud-hosted service. Every social-media website is a cloud-hosted service in other terms.

I purchased a study table from an online portal, and now Facebook is showing me ads about study chairs of different brands. I already have a chair. The prediction of my needs has been clearly misjudged.

I understand that we get exposed to a lot of information daily and it is uncalled for. Such information further leads to some unnecessary purchases. Is cloud supporting consumerism, that too, in a bad way?

Information or Digital Clutter?

When I replaced my previous computer with an updated version, I had to transfer the whole data to the new one. And then I realized I had a lot of clutter that was never used or ever going to be. I got rid of it all. In the same way, if any data created by me is not useful information, then it is definitely occupying some unnecessary space in the cloud, on a server powered by electricity. And electricity production has its own hazards on the climate.

The same hold true with billions of people who are creating data for no reasons. Our social media profile is piles of data that is saved on a remote server.  Our dependence on information is increasing, and so are the number of data centers.

According to a survey done by IDC, in 2012, the number of existing data centers was 500,000, and today it has spiked to 8 million data centers. This growth is alarming.

They run on electricity. Producing electricity itself has various ill effects on the climate. I’m concerned about that, too. Because I can live without cloud, but I can’t live in the bad air quality.

I feel the unnecessary data should have a certain lifetime, beyond which it should be disposed of. Emptying the space occupied by unnecessary bits of data will further declutter cloud and reduce the carbon footprint caused by the data centers. 

What I Have Found After Some Research

While seeking some answers, I did some research to find various unresolved problems related to cloud that tech companies should take care of. Google is taking some major steps to save energy and trying to reduce the carbon footprint from the functioning of data centers.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has made its presence felt, and most companies are now trying to become GDPR compliant. So, people who are sharing about themselves with a company make the company liable to keep the user’s privacy intact.

But the weather is still gloomy, and many others like me are concerned about their personal data. In a survey done with US consumers, 71% of the US consumers worry about their personal data that brands use it at times. 34% still don’t trust digital companies for their privacy. But despite all, several laws are coming up just like GDPR did, I’m quite hopeful that the times ahead are bright.

In the case of social media, I have personally become more conscious about the way I use it. Facebook knows everybody in its own ways, and that’s totally because of the algorithm they use. How I put myself to the world, that’s a choice, and how I put my personal data in the cloud has now become a responsibility.

cloud, data, data centers, privacy, security, social media

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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