by Jansen Allen

You wake up in the morning, while still lying in bed you leisurely scroll through your Facebook feed and check Twitter for the latest radical tweets from today’s celebrity politicians. Your morning ritual continues, as you sip your daily double-double and pull your car out of the parking space, your favourite playlist blares on Spotify. Lunchtime rolls around and you snap a picture of your meal to share with all your friends on Instagram. After a busy day at work, you come home to cuddle up to your significant other and ask Alexa to play a feel-good movie on your smart TV. It’s just you, your partner, and nearly every tech company whose apps you’ve downloaded onto your devices.

Privacy has been brought to the forefront of the global conversation in recent years. Individuals are outraged at the lack of privacy, and they have been losing it at an exponential rate. In this day and age privacy is no longer a given, privacy is a luxury that not many do not have the option to retain. And there are two domains in which privacy is being lost, the web and the actual physical world.

While on the web, using social media, downloading apps and engaging in many more day-to-day online activities, individuals agree to numerous ludicrous terms of service that strip their rights to privacy. In the offline world everyone should be aware that they have an online dossier which anyone can view anytime. This all means that privacy is a thing of the past for most people. At this point in time your whole life is online data, a series of number which are shared publicly; because of this privacy is virtually extinct.

With technology constantly evolving, companies have been quick to jump on the opportunity to harvest data from millions of individuals and use it for profit, many of whom have no idea. It is extremely important to read the terms of service for online services, as with any product, as they do carry weight. Many of the terms of service of social media platforms mention the collection of data and content. This content collection can include ownership rights. With respect to platforms like Instagram, any picture you post becomes the company’s property. They could mass produce a picture without the permission of the user who posted it, and they would not be able to do anything as they already agreed to it within the terms of service.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, in Facebook’s terms of service you agree to keep all your personal information up to date, you agree to allow the site to use cookies, you agree to grant them use of your pictures, name and information for commercial use and much more. If you allow a site to use cookies, this allows them to monitor you Internet usage even while not on that site. This includes seeing what you’re buying on Amazon, seeing what education or occupational content you’re looking at, and much more, they can see everything.

Agreeing to allow Facebook to use your picture, name, and data for commercial use could play out in a number of ways. The simplest is that they could sell a picture of you to a company who would then use that picture in order to make a banner for a website. It doesn’t end there, they are allowed to sell your data to companies for profit.

As was mentioned earlier, it’s not just a lack of privacy online, now individuals have full digital dossiers. Facebook accounts that were opened ten years ago, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, all of it. Your whole life can be read and observed via the Internet by examining your digital dossier.

Many employers will examine an applicant’s digital dossier, around 70% in fact. Anyone that knows your name can look you up, employers, friends, strangers, and it’s even easier if they know what city you live in. if they individual hasn’t set strict privacy settings, then their information is open the public.

Privacy is a luxury which few of us still have. When your online activity is monitored, and you online profiles can be easily ‘stalked’ by anyone, is anywhere safe, can you even have privacy? Smart TVs, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home all monitor your activity, they even know what hours in your house are ‘peak hours’, and which are resting hours. Privacy and digital technology cannot coexist. When you’re constantly being tracked online, can privacy ever be reclaimed?