Big Brother Is Watching over Us! | TechWell

Big Brother Is Watching over Us!

If you think the Internet gives you an anonymous existence, think again. A recent article on Forbes.com looks at the first six months of 2013 and the number of times that the US Federal Government has requested data from the largest IT companies in the world.

Granted, some of these requests may be duplicate people, but this begs the question, “Is my information private and what rights do I have on the web?” Let’s dig deeper into this topic together. First, take a look at this interesting chart from Forbes that details the data requests:

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We all should know that any Internet activity we perform is being tracked by our Internet service provider, but it's just exactly where that information is going that raises red flags and presents an ethical dilemma. CSO Online looks at data brokers and how their collection of Internet activity is raising privacy issues. According to the article, Acxiom, a data broker, is allowing customers to view data collected on them or at least a portion of the data. The company claims that data mining is actually good for consumers. I am not so sure about that myself. I mean what could go wrong?

Actually, a teenager shopping at Target found out that this could go terribly wrong. While this Business Insider story is more than a year old, it shows the danger of data mining and privacy. Although your shopping habits are technically public knowledge since people can see what you are buying in public, I think this leads to major ethical issues, not just privacy issues. How much information is too much information, and how can I protect myself?

This is not just a US-only issue. There are governments worldwide asking major tech companies to share information about users. The crazy part about this is that most of it is legal. The article points out that there have been 25,879 requests in the first part of this year from governments all over the world. Google stated that these numbers only represent what they are allowed to tell us.

Not all data mining is harmful as an article in The New York Times points out. A San Francisco-based company is using photos of everyday items from around the world and what they cost. This company is using the information to gauge inflation and discover trends in produce that the company claims will help buyers and stockbrokers in the grocery sector.

What do you think about data mining and ethics? Is the information helpful or harmful to individuals? 

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