The Secret of Surveillance

Big Data is big money: Surveillance - Business Model of the Internet. Producing data for big companies has become the norm, but ZenMate gives you a free ticket out of this misuse.

secret surveillance

Here is a mind twister for our readers: 90% of the world’s data was created over the past 2 years (source: IBM). This data point is simple evidence of how big data is growing at exponential rate over the last years. It is also an indicator of how the business of big data is growing rapidly and seen by many as a gigantic new opportunity to create new value;in other words, to create jobs and income.

The big data, or as many refer to it as the “crowd data”, is a booming new segment of the economy. Just ask Google, Twitter or Facebook. Basically, it consists of a collection of private data, put into a massive database that can be used to extract new insights that in turn can be translated into real value. Let’s say for example that a GPS system is collecting data on your daily commute to work and back. It can not only suggest to you a fueling station cheaper than the one you usually fuel in by learning your routine, but also collect data from all drivers and suggest an alternative route at peak traffic that will save you time and money. That’s big data working.

A New Dimension

This form of data collection is ruling our internet usage. Actually, it is done to such extent that at the beginning of the month, the security guru Bruce Schneier described it as “the business model of the internet. “Surveillance is the business model of the Internet,” Schneier told attendees at the SOURCE Boston conference. “We build systems that spy on people in exchange for services. Corporations call it marketing”.

The data economy—the growth of mass data collection and tracking—is changing how power is perceived, Schneier said in his keynote speech. The Internet and technology has changed the impact a group can have on others, where dissidents can use the Internet to amplify their voices and extend their reach. Governments already have a lot of power to begin with, so when they take advantage of technology, their power is magnified. “That's how you get weird situations where Syrian dissidents use Facebook to organize, and the government uses Facebook to arrest its citizens,” Schneier said.

The Value of Data

Data is currency, and consumers are willing to hand over their information in exchange for “free or convenience,” Schneier said. “Companies such as Facebook and Google want the data so that they can sell more stuff. Users hand it over to play games, to get email, or some other benefit. I like to think of this as a feudal model. At a most fundamental model, we are tenant farming for companies like Google. We are on their land producing data,” he said.

Schneier also warns against leaving it to the big collectors to do the right thing with the data. When we hand this data over, we actually trust data brokers will do the right thing with the personal data. ZenMate is one of the few companies doing so. But we are an exception! It turns out that 44% of companies don’t have formal Data Governance policies. This is one of the key findings of the newly released “2013 Data Governance Survey” conducted by Rand Secure. However, the people who are trying to define such policies like Alex `Sandy’ Pentland, director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, think that privacy is not the issue here.

What about Privacy?

“Privacy is the wrong debate”, said Sandy, who co-leads the World Economic Forum Big Data and Personal Data initiatives, and is a founding member of the Advisory Boards for Nissan, Motorola Mobility, Telefonica, and a variety of start-up firms. “Privacy is one type of service that you could want, but what you really want is value for your data, and you want it to be safe, secure, and under your control”

Well, here at ZenMate we think our users are smart enough to decide for themselves if privacy is the right or the wrong debate. But we believe that they should be given the option to do that, by using our nifty plugin protector.

Would you like to control your privacy, or do you think it’s the wrong debate?