The big data blue – Who is the custodian of our secrecies?

Sep 19, 2022

Behind every offer of free operating systems and applications we use, boasting about our cellphones being storage of everything we have acquired in life, there is a big unknown trap. You are contributing to the tech giants’ hunger for data, which has become a precious business asset. Your secrets go into the belly of those who give you the so-called free service. Mind it, every moment of your life is under their scanner.

Have we ever thought about who is in the custody of our confidential information? Is it within the darkness of our lockers? Is it in the hands of our spouse? Or, is it in the hands of any confidential assistance? The answer is simple, ‘No’. Not in our computers, nor in the lockers, nor the hands of anyone. Not even in the hands of the government which outsources systems to technology giants. Then where is it? It is in a pool built by tech czars. Four years ago, the Attorney General told the five-judge Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court that the Aadhaar data remains safe and secure within the structure of 13-ft height, five feet thick walls. Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the government-controlled institution issues the Aadhaar number that has linkage with every activity of a citizen. Private tech giants have built the IT infrastructure required for keeping voluminous data. Today big data is a big business.

UIDAI has every detail, including biometric and iris details, of each citizen of India. It keeps collecting the details of income, wealth, business and financial transactions, personal activities, movements, interests, etc of a citizen through the Aadhaar tool. The right to privacy is one of the fundamental rights of a citizen, let us not disregard it. Aadhaar is now unavoidable and the apex court made it a right of a citizen.

Other than UIDAI, we have banks which have records of the financial transactions of its account holders. They also track the spending and earning behaviour of their customers, how much is there in one’s accounts, how financially disciplined a person is, etc. Until two decades ago all details that the banks used to have in their big books were not integrated into one system so each bank used to be a mere record keeper of the account holder rather than becoming a custodian of information, which it is at present.

Above these two we have other estates to keep our data secretly. These estates are in the form of apps and service platforms. Google has an eye all across the globe. In less than a quarter of a century, it could make people feed its base with their details so that it could become a data emperor. It has a space for keeping our printed texts, graphics, videos and sound clips. It did not mind what people dumped on its space. Google did not grab anyone’s data, nor does it need it, but everyone would dump their data on its never-filling repositories. Now, no one can stop using it for fear of giving away one’s confidential data. Routines become ineradicable over a period, which later we call mania. In every urban street and village corner, we see the cellphone mania with which we cannot remain detached even for a few minutes. In the process of deep learning, artificial intelligence like BERT that Google equipped with its system in recent years, senses and absorbs from us.

More than the data, it collects information about our inner mind. The time is not too far for us to see that deep learning artificial intelligence replicates what we desire with better intelligence than we can show without learning. We don’t need to polish our skills and work hard to perform anything. A newer deep learning system will make us cross the ordeal of skill development and save our time. It sounds fabulous! But we forget the baneful fate of humans in future. We finally give away our brains and our network of neurons. The real humans become puppets with nothing as privacy, confidentiality, secret or own sense. Driven by cellphones, controlled by a deep learning system and given into a data network, we live an incidental human life. Human beings are born with nothing, work for many things that the system developers longed for and die with nothing in hand. We have a system that can retool our brain, remake our spirit and recast our taste in return for our data feeding to their pools.