As people have turned to digital solutions in times of COVID-19 to keep businesses afloat, resume education, and ensure security, it is imperative to question the long-term costs of moving every aspect of our lives online. What is being lauded and touted as necessary to mitigate the virus’s societal, cultural and economic repercussions clashes between security and privacy.
Link between Data and Capitalism
Choosing online solutions to fight the COVID-19 imposed challenges is hardly surprising, given the dependence on data collection to run the capitalist market today. Depending on the default mode of data accession, capitalism considers it imperative for both the business and economy. The valued data is achieved by scrutinizing our daily lives by turning our lives into streaming videos exposed to the marketers for their convenience and advantage.
The question lies in the acceptance of converting all human life into streams of data for economic and political value. Dr. Solen Feyissa answers the prime question of resistance to this colonial push and broader trend that has been imposed as the hard and only choice. What is being downgraded here is the risk at which the vulnerable and marginalized societies are being put. It will make it easy for the automation of inequality to begin. In the name of ostensibly free services, our privacy is compromised.
Resisting Data Colonialism in Current Times
The technological solution that has been put forward as a means to curb the disease is the use of the interface or API that facilitates contact tracing. Despite the lack of enthusiasm shown by some of the countries, many others will be used who can expose themselves to the risk of being in constant surveillance of marketers.
API uses Bluetooth signals for tracking owners’ phones who have been in the virus’s proximity. However, compared to Bluetooth signals, the virus cannot travel across several hundred feet and through walls! The use of smartphones and the tracking system’s use exposes users to the risk of being identified by other tracking systems, thereby risking their privacy.
While the government and corporations feign care, in reality, they are extracting an opportunity for themselves to extra non-stop data or practicing what we call data colonialism. The continuous tracking of our devices and online lives gives marketers and corporations unprecedented opportunities for discrimination and behavioral influence. The API tracking goes beyond using social media platforms and search engines that are usually targeted for spying.
The pandemic has fuelled the already existent data colonialism that can further be intensified. We need to resist this opportunistic behavior and reject the falsely made claims of security through data extraction.
If we fail to fight data colonialism, we will forever subject our present and future to these tech solutions that compromise our privacy and security from malicious sectors.