THE HIDDEN WARRIOR IN A SECRET BATTLE

 “It's the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behaviour and perception that is the product.” -Jaron Lanier


The imbalance of power experienced during the period of classical colonialism, when there was a massive expansion of power through the control of key assets, from trade routes to oceans, railway stations and roads to precious metals is in no way a distant memory among the powerless countries which were colonized by the imperial nations.


During this period which can be traced back to have started in the 15th century, the imperial powers, pushed by political, economic and social motives, forcefully scrambled for and obtained territories from weak nations, exploiting their human and natural resources to obtain cheap labour, raw materials for their industries and markets for their manufactured goods.


The good news is, the era of classical colonialism ended back in the 20th century when the colonies gained their independence, but a new form of colonialism is emerging, with the advancement of internet technologies such as cyberspace information and other associated technologies such as big data mining and analysis from the North towards the Global South.


The world is currently experiencing a high degree of revolution in areas of cyberspace information and big data analysis. These newly emerging technologies with no doubt provide a promising future to mankind. The growth and expansion of these technologies though, is in the same way manipulated, by the wrong hands, to form a new form of colonialism, the digital imperialism.

This refers to "the deployment of a quasi-imperial power over a vast number of people, without their explicit consent, manifested in rules, designs, languages, cultures and belief systems by vastly dominant powers" says Renata Avila, a lawyer and activist specialized in technology and intellectual property and a former senior digital rights advisor at World Wide Web Foundation.


In this new form of colonialism, the tables have turned from the ownership of key assets as owned by classical imperialist powers, to the ownership of individual persons as colonies, exploiting their private data as resources for making profit and plunder. The system has changed from the ownership of nations by superpowers to the ownership of private data by Tech corporations.


The foundations of democracy and freedom are at a greater risk with digital colonialism, due to the fact that centralized global agents and big data companies have the power to monitor, process and mediate all internet user communications. In a layman language, these global agents have full control over all cyberspace information in the world, this means they can control all electronic systems that allow computer users around the world to communicate with each other or to access information.


Someone may wonder what all these stories are for. Well, I can take you through the past so that you can have a clue of what all this is about. Have you come to know about the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal? the massive known data breach to have been witnessed in the history of Facebook, in which millions of users' personal data was harvested without their prior consent? I assume you don't, so let us go through it at a glance.


In the early 2018, the world witnessed the largest known data breach in the history of Facebook, when millions of Facebook users' personal data was harvested without their consent by Cambridge-Analytica. This was a British political consulting firm that combined misappropriation of digital assets, data mining, data brokerage and data analysis with strategic communication during the electoral processes.


The data break involved collection of personally identified information through an app called "thisisyourdigitallife", based on the OCEAN personality model. The information obtained via this App was used to build a so-called "psychographic" profile. The OCEAN acronym stands for openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Adding the app to your Facebook account to take the personality quiz, gives the creator of the App full access to the user's profile information and the user history as well as of all the friends that user has in Facebook.


On March 17, 2018, an expose was published by The Guardian and The New York Times, initially reporting that 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested by Cambridge Analytica; the figure was later revised to "up to 87 million" profiles

(Tech Republic, July 24, 2019, 8:52 AM PST)


The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal is one among thousands of cases of breach of privacy by tech corporations, which is, for the matter of fact, one among the many manifestations of digital colonialism. We usually  provide a lot of personal information on the internet, but the question lies, do we read the terms and conditions of the website we scroll in every day and of the Apps we download from google play store or App store? 

Do we know how much personalized information and private details can one get from what we provide on the internet, with the development of big data analysis?

 

The researchers associated with Cambridge university for example, claimed in a paper that the psychographic profile which was the backbone of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data breach can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including; sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age and gender with a model developed by researchers that uses a combination of dimensionality reduction and logistic/linear regression to infer this information about the users. These information can be manipulated by the big tech companies, for their economic, social and political interests.


People  may think that digital colonialism is all about personal privacy and private data, but the truth is, it is miles away from being a mere concern of personal privacy. Digital colonialism, just like classical colonialism, can affect the world and it's mankind in all aspects of life, be it politics, economy and social patterns of life such as religion, culture and behaviour.

 

Have you ever thought of how many local tax drivers have perished due to penetration of transport tech companies such as Uber and Bolt in the local market? If you are a local tax driver and you want to survive in the market, you must work with Uber, otherwise you will perish!

No one can ever ignore the disruption of local television shows in the Global South due to growth, penetration and expansion of online streaming tech companies such as Netflix. Digital colonialism, in it's own way, is disrupting the existing social, political and economic systems in the world, and it is becoming the biggest threat, especially in the Global South, during this era of growth and expansion of internet technology

.

After a long battle against classical colonialism, we now have a new form of colonialism, in the era of technological advancement and internet expansion, with big data analysis and cyberspace information playing a pivotal role in helping digital imperialists, big data corporations and tech companies to own individual persons as their colonies, exploiting their privacy for profit. 

Someone may ask me a lot of questions here; "Does it mean all these technologies are a threat to humanity and mankind?". "Are you too pessimistic to see the good things these technologies have done to us?". Well, don't I have an optimistic mind enough to appreciate the improvement of services brought by the expansion of cyberspace information? Of course No! I am very optimistic about these technologies.


Honestly speaking, no one can ignore the promising future which can be offered by the expansion of Internet technology in the world. As it can manipulate politics, economy and social patterns of life, the expansion of internet technology can also be used to improve the world we are living in, making it better, with improved services. I will be really evil and the son of the devil if I stand in the crowd and say "burn internet technologies, big data and all the cyberspace informatics as they have nothing to do with us, rather being used as pivotal weapons to facilitate digital colonialism".


The growth and expansion of cyberspace information and big data analysis is of useful advantage, on the other side of the coin.

Big data analysis for example, is being used by law enforcement agents such as GCHQ and NSA which have access to massive amounts of information which can be used to catch criminals, foil terrorists and make us all feel safe.


Cyberspace information and big data analysis can be used in healthcare industries to predict the pattern of many diseases and form strategic plans and policy to make the world a better place for everyone.


Advertising and marketing has been one of the leading users of big data analysis and cyberspace information to improve purchase suggestions. This allows firms to be much specific and direct with product advertising.


The growth and expansion of internet technologies, such as cyberspace information and big data analysis is therefore both promising and scary. The problem is, we usually advertise the promising side, forgetting to turn back the other side to see the scarry aspect of internet technologies.  The fact that we don't care about the scary side of internet technologies, has for a long time taken us through a "secret battle", a war against the new form of colonialism, a battle against digital imperialism.


What should we do now? We can not escape from integrating these rapidly expanding technologies in our day to day activities. We are at the point where adaptation is the only key to unlock progress and take advantage of this fast moving vehicle. The only adaptation we can make is recruiting the "hidden warrior", which can help us win our secret battle against digital colonialism. This hidden warrior is no more than digital literacy, the one's ability to understand how the internet technology works, how to use, consume and share data and information in the era of the digital world.



With growth and expansion of big data mining and analysis, associated with advancement of cyberspace information, which are all creating a room for tech corporations to manipulate mankind through digital colonialism, digital literacy is and will be among the very important and core skills that everyone will need to survive the storms and threats of the new form of colonialism during this era of digital technology.

Post a Comment

0 Comments