Big Data in uncharted waters Mahmudur Rahman
It was the famous Barack Obama election campaign that utilized Facebook, to reach out to the millions of United States voters who were immune to the more traditional forms of campaign platforms such as television and print media, to very effective ends.
Since then, the platform has become a popular form around the world. But where there is a good side to such methods, there’s a nefarious side to it as well.
The 2016 US elections remain mired with controversy over hacked access to people’s privacy — leading to targeted advertising to prospective voters.
The finger is pointed at Russia, though the allegations have been denied by President Vladimir Putin.
However, investigative journalists have followed the trail to accomplished hackers based in some countries that were once part of the former Soviet Union.
On the back of that came the bombshell that over 20 million Facebook accounts’ privacy details were sadly compromised.
A glum-faced Mark Zuckerberg admitted as such in front of a congressional committee, offering greater safeguards for the future. Unfortunately, the details that went public remain so even though Facebook offered the rather lame opportunity for account holders to re-register with their details.
The information in the public domain is still available to the high bidders and that includes, however slyly, global businesses. And those humble account holders such as this scribe no longer wonder why they’re bombarded with a surfeit of advertising. Similar information has been used in the developing world even as developed countries such as France and Germany mumbled about “interference” in their elections. The Indian elections had a plethora of platforms created on Facebook, among other social media, to convince voters.
With resistance not as strong or with a lack of an available protest means, the Third World voters had to shrug their shoulders and bear it.
Since then, Facebook, Twitter, and, now, Google have announced that they would take down any posts that even smell of electioneering or fanning any form of phobia.
That actually goes to make matters worse. If ever there were suspicions about the internet being monitored, the three global internet giants have revealed as much. Privacy is gone forever, and artificial intelligence will feast on the most intimate of private moments that is shared.
China has blocked access to international social media, but created one of its own that is without doubt monitored just as closely.
Given that these media are answerable only to the countries in which they originate, the issue of greater control internationally becomes of greater import.
The law enforcers in Bangladesh have been provided the equipment to monitor and clamp down on certain posts on social media that are either grossly critical of the government or tantamount to spreading and eschewing unrest of any kind.
Artificial intelligence is already, in use with robotics, the most popular form employed by business. But Big Data permeates uncharted territory that has the potential of further intrusion into the bare essentials of personal privacy. That by itself will create a world very different, sinister, and rudely controlled.