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Data Breach

By CHM Editorial | May 29, 2024

Access has gone horribly wrong.

— Brewster Kahle

Do you know who has your personal data? You may not realize that every time you use social media, or an app, or check out a website, data is being gathered about you and shared, sold, and used, often without your permission or even your knowledge.

Experts featured in NOVA’s new documentary, Secrets In Your Data, explored these issues and more on stage at the CHM. Alok Patel, a physician and ABC News medical contributor served as the moderator for a panel that included Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Brewster Kahle, the founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive, and Patrick Jackson, chief technology officer of Disconnect. Here are some highlights.

From Dream to Nightmare

The dream of the early internet, says Brewster Kahle, was for people to have all the published works of humankind at their fingertips. Early internet pioneers knew that this was all a matter of collecting massive amounts of data and helping people interact with the machines who could deliver it through a global network, but it took decades to get to the point where this was possible. In the meantime, big companies instituted pay walls and “creepy systems.”

Patrick Jackson, who used to work at the NSA, believes it’s important to interrogate any organization that has immense power. Eva Galperin explained that the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a civil liberties organization trying to guarantee that when you go online your rights go with you. They’re a “security team for people who can’t afford it.”

And people sure do need help. Jackson’s company endeavors to educate people about how things work and the practical things they can do to make their privacy and security better, but it’s hard to compete with . . . cookies.

Data for Sale

We might see cookies popping up more lately these days because the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) require that people give affirmative assent to them, but they were always there in the background tracking and collecting personal information and data. Asking for consent is better than nothing, but not much, Galperin says.

Eva Galperin says privacy is not dead.

Privacy is not dead yet, but there’s a lot of work to do. Ethics were a concern in the early days of digital librarianship, says Kahle, but large companies that have become portals for all kinds of human activities and have developed business models that intentionally avoid them. Even publishers have become data analytics companies more concerned with (implicitly) mining data rather than (explicitly) offering quality content.

Jackson says that it’s hit or miss if companies will disclose the data they’re giving away in their terms and conditions. Those with a lot to lose, like Facebook and Google, will include it all. Others? Not so much.

Patrick Jackson discusses the lack of oversight in data collection.

Jackson warned that people have no idea what’s going on with data collection and how it could harm them in the future. Companies may sell personal data to data brokers or other companies who could combine it with other data collected to get a very detailed understanding of an individual.

What to do?

Alok Patel read a quote from poet John Perry Barlow, who said, “Relying on government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping Tom to install your blinds.” So, what exactly is the role of government versus personal responsibility?

Jackson believes people should always have the ability to protect themselves but government needs to step in to monitor larger companies. A ban on TikTok won’t help the problem of over-collecting and abusing user data across all apps and platforms, says Galperin. Kahle thinks governments are letting us down, especially in failing to enforce antitrust regulations and allowing companies to become so large. But he believes there can be reason to hope.

Brewster Kahle thinks data privacy issues can be fixed.

Let’s celebrate the people who help more of us win and not just a few big corporations, says Kahle. Galperin and EFF believe that to secure digital civil liberties we need to fight in courts, enact legislation, and convince companies to adopt better practices.

In the meantime, people can take steps to protect themselves. Jackson recommends relay services like Hide My Email. Galperin suggests locking down your account, using a password manager and the strongest version of two-factor authentication that you’re comfortable with, taking security updates, and installing blocking applications like Privacy Badger from EFF.

What are you waiting for?

Main image: From left, Alok Patel, Eva Galperin, Patrick Jackson, and Brewster Kahle on stage at CHM.

Watch the Full Conversation

NOVA Secrets in Your Data | CHM Live, May 16, 2024


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About The Author

CHM Editorial consists of editors, curators, writers, educators, archivists, media producers, researchers, and web designers, looking to bring CHM audiences the best in technology and Museum news.

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