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There is no surprise to why we love bad news or hearing anything negative. For whatever reason, negativity sells. In the same way, the fact that big tech companies use our info for whatever means is just something that sells. Of course, this is not a good thing, then why is it that we cannot stop it or do anything about it? Giant tech companies or their apps or products ask us our permission on whether they can use the camera or the microphone. Now, why would someone deny permission to use these peripherals when using an application? When one downloads the application itself, they are ready to offer all required permissions.

Is the problem that is my choice taken only for the use of the peripherals or do I have my choice upheld even after that? What is being done with my recorded voice, my images, my data, my clicks, my likes, and dislikes, my online purchases, my GPS tracking – all of this that when put together makes… me. Therefore, do I have a choice to sell my data that represents me completely? Am I being given that choice or am I in control of it? So is this the problem then? Do we need to bring the choice within these layers too?

I think not. The real problem is, EVEN IF… and that IF is going to take a while… but even if, we install choice and give complete control to the user at every level of what needs to be done with the data, should it be recorded, can it be sold, displayed, etc…. will the user actually deny of it? Are we today in a world where we know we are being watched on from our apps, phones, Governments, Google, Facebook and others… and still choose to continue with this? There are benefits. Our GPS tracking provides us with an online assistant that will help manage our calendar and appointments. So what do we choose? Can we allow a bit of surveillance so that our lives can be made a bit more smooth with technology? Yes, surely. But again, is that all?

Privacy is now a fundamental right in India… and what does that mean for the tech industry?

Meanwhile, in India, there is a huge fight growing over the very debate of tracking and privacy vs efficiency of managing its citizens. Should Aadhaar (let’s consider it as India’s version of the USA SSN system)  be mandatorily added into the phone, credit cards, banking system, and everywhere else, making the government aware of all our digital and financial assets and all its connections? From all these arguments, clearly, the Tech giants want the data and Governments want control over it. If this is not true then why are Google and Facebook lobbyists trying to stop online privacy protections?

As I had mentioned in my reflection on Historical Relation Of Vision And Power Dynamics, “…Good surveillance is ok as long as we have a choice to choose something under surveillance or if we are being told that our ‘call may be recorded for testing purposes’, if an app needs our permission to access photos, camera or microphone or if a company needs usage statistics of the software we are using. It’s only when we’re in the unknown that surveillance is questionable and takes a form of voyeurism.

…parasitic form of profit. …Exercising one’s right to privacy produces choice, and one can choose to keep something secret or to share it. Privacy rights thus confer decision rights…

To conclude, reflecting on “invisible images“, and as ironical as this phrase sounds, the debate of knowledge of surveillance vs choice vs comfort of technology loops in a circle and we need to dispel any shadows looming over human civilization by starting from any one place in this cyclical PanopticonIf we flag a photoshopped image as fake news after the user has already been affected by it or believes in it, will that user then change his belief or stick to whatever belief the fake image generated?

The fact that digital images are fundamentally machine-readable regardless of a human subject has enormous implications.