The struggle for power over personal data between social networking sites and their users is not a new concern. By now, most people are aware that the way these free services are able to make money is from taking the personal data we provide them and using it to market targeted products from other internal and external services.
But even for those of us that are aware of this power struggle and are actively trying to maintain control of our own data, the battle has not proven to be easy. Just recently, Facebook quietly, without your consent, changed the email address publicly displayed on your profile to [yourusername]@facebook.com. Though it’s not difficult to switch it back, this feels like an underhanded move on Facebook’s part, and it sort of demonstrates who has the upper hand when it comes to control over data.
Privacy has always been a top concern as we grow more and more interconnected. But now, it seems, Apple is taking action. According to VatorNews, they filed for a new patent last Tuesday “that would allow it to clone a person’s digital identity in order to throw off those trying to track people on the Internet.”
What this means is that Apple will take someone’s digital identity and replicate it multiple times with some modifications each time to “pollute electronic profiling” – basically turning the Internet into a game of Where’s Waldo (where Waldo represents your true identity,) in order to make the process for those trying to collect our data (Apple refers to them as “Little Brothers”) more difficult than it currently is.
As I learn more about this, I’m skeptical that this move by Apple is the right one to take. While I understand the motivations behind it, I’m just not so sure that creating more identities will help us finally get a handle of our own. By passing off the control of our data to yet another company, who, despite noble intentions, is still a company and therefore driven by revenue, it’s debatable whether or not we are ever really gaining control of our data in the process. Is giving Apple the ability to take aspects of our ourselves, duplicate, exploit and modify them, really any less frightening than the social network sites that daily hand off our data? And with this new advancements, it will definitely be more difficult to be findable. While the benefits of that are clear, could there also be some drawbacks? Could not being findable negatively impact our ability to connect and to gain opportunities to work and to learn?