Think You’re Discreet
APRIL 21, 2019 Zeynep Tufekci
Think You’re Discreet Online? Think Again
Because of technological advances and the sheer amount of data now available about billions of other people, discretion no longer suffices to protect your privacy. Computer algorithms and network analyses can now infer, with a sufficiently high degree of accuracy, a wide range of things about you that you may have never disclosed, including your moods, your political beliefs, your sexual orientation and your health.
There is no longer such a thing as individually “opting out” of our privacy-compromised world.
In 2017, the newspaper The Australian published an article, based on a leaked document from Facebook, revealing that the company had told advertisers that it could predict when younger users, including teenagers, were feeling “insecure,” “worthless” or otherwise in need of a “confidence boost.” Facebook was apparently able to draw these inferences by monitoring photos, posts and other social media data.
In 2017, academic researchers, armed with data from more than 40,000 Instagram photos, used machine-learning tools to accurately identify signs of depression in a group of 166 Instagram users. Their computer models turned out to be better predictors of depression than humans who were asked to rate whether photos were happy or sad and so forth.
Computational inference can also be a tool of social control. The Chinese government, having gathered biometric data on its citizens, is trying to use big data and artificial intelligence to single out “threats” to Communist rule, including the country’s Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group.
Zeynep Tufekci and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz: Privacy is over
more on privacy in this IMS blog