Is it possible for one man to hold the whole world in his hand? To put life on pause and then sound the alarm for it to resume once again?
If there's one thing we could all take away from last Monday's social media blackout, is that Mark Zuckerberg has mastered the art of control. There is a lot to be said about social media use and practices that we, for many reasons, have failed to acknowledge. Everything and I mean everything, is shared online for the world to see. From our switch to a more keto-friendly diet, to our single, dating or in a relationship statuses, our lives and who we are is constantly featured online.
When we join an online platform or fill out an electronic form, details like our name, date of birth and credit card information becomes a stream of information we release into cyberspace. And it doesn't stop there. Yet, most of us are so eager to derive the benefits from online communities that we are happy to enter our name, select the most relevant details and skim right past the privacy and confidentiality clause.
One article suggests that technological developments, including the creation of “big data,” data sharing, matching, profiling, and automated decision-making, have exposed the right to privacy to new threats by reducing the amount of control we have over our personal information. When we enter our biodata information, do we stop to consider how much of our personal information is online? And how well is it being protected?
Recently, high-profile data breaches affecting millions of individuals worldwide has sparked widespread debate on the need for modern, comprehensive data protection laws that enhances protection for personal data and strengthen individual rights. The Cambridge Analytica Facebook scandal is one example of a breach where user data was improperly obtained from Facebook and used to build voter profiles in the lead-up to the US elections.
Internet privacy is concerned primarily with how personal information is exposed over the internet through tracking, data collection, data sharing, and cybersecurity threats.
Thomas Reuters cites that the potential for breaches of online privacy has grown significantly over the years and international laws aren't comprehensive enough to keep up with the demands of the web. Laws that cover online privacy should touch on consumer protection and protect certain categories of personal information, heighten security and make data breach notification mandatory. But with the ever-changing nature of technology, this isn't easily achieved, and many people believe that the laws in place don't adequately protect users from the harmful use of their personal information.
In its 2020 white paper on data protection and privacy, Facebook slammed regulators, calling the current privacy practices and laws insufficient, leading many globally to rethink the approach to data protection online. The European Union has gone to great lengths to protect the data of its citizens and has enacted comprehensive rules to protect people in their private lives, particularly when they are online.
The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guarantees the protection of personal data whenever they are collected, whether by online shopping, loan application or hotel stay. These rules apply to both companies and organisations (public and private) in the EU and those based outside the EU who offer goods or services in the EU, such as Facebook or Amazon. Though rigid, the regulations allow for the collection or reuse of personal information in limited situations such as if a company is complying with a legal obligation or a legitimate interest.
The EU's Regulation has gained recognition as the international best practice in the area of data protection. One key feature of the regulation is the need for countries outside the EU to comply with the requirements of the GDPR to protect cross-border trade and data flow with the EU.
In Trinidad and Tobago data protection laws comes in the form of The Data Protection Act 2011, and while not fully enacted, it deals specifically with the protection of personal information in the public and private sectors. However, it should be noted that although it does offer some protection, it isn't as comprehensive as the GDPR and could go further by touching on issues such as consent withdrawal and extraterritorial scope.
In an age where technological advancements dominate, the world is moving in the right direction in a bid to better protect our personal information. It must be said that manoeuvring this dynamic course and implementing laws that could keep up with the times is honestly an arduous affair that might require revisiting year after year.
So then, would we ever belong to a world where our fate isn't in the hands of a small few?