Mass data theft. Foreign cyber-intervention in elections. Smartphones doubling as surveillance devices that track your every move. Corporations peering into your personal information to exploit your online activities to advertise to you — and even try to influence your behavior. It sounds like a sci-fi thriller, but it’s real life. And it’s affecting you.

Your Toothbrush is Spying on You

And so is your egg carton, your mattress – you name it, if it’s “smart” it is a two-way communication device, continuously collecting and selling your data. Who stands to profit? Industry and government, as they pave the way for microcells and 5G by plying us with tales of energy self-sufficiency and Jetson-like road safety, while luring us to an automated heaven where we can stream as much video as we want into the lenses of our virtual reality glasses.

Although tech-addicted citizens may salivate at the promise that everything in this brave new world will be shinier and faster, are we really willing to have a cell antenna in our yard, and to trade the spurious benefits of fast data for ill health and corporate control over every aspect of our lives?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has admitted that one hundred percent of Facebook users have likely had their privacy compromised by “malicious actors”. 

The New York Times warns:

EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY, everywhere on the planet, dozens of companies — largely unregulated, little scrutinized — are logging the movements of tens of millions of people with mobile phones and storing the information in gigantic data files….We are living in the world’s most advanced surveillance system. This system wasn’t created deliberately. It was built through the interplay of technological advance and the profit motive. It was built to make money. The greatest trick technology companies ever played was persuading society to surveil itself.

Canada’s privacy laws are so weak and out of date that our Privacy Commissioner is raising the alarm and calling on lawmakers to strengthen the law to stop companies from mining our personal data to influence behavior and turn a profit.

If we stay on our current trajectory, protecting our privacy may be a lost cause. The Internet of Things, “smart” cities and autonomous cars will depend on massive, 24/7 data collection to function. Wireless networks are much more vulnerable to data theft than wired ones are. And privacy laws won’t stop hackers.

As we become increasingly dependent on wireless tech, we usher in a whole new era of surveillance capitalism, a world where technology normalizes what we once considered immoral and invasive – Big Brother and Big Business harvesting our personal data for financial gain and control.

Resources on PRIVACY

O.K., Google: How Much Money Have I Made for You Today?

Silicon Valley siphons our data like oil. But the deepest drilling has just begun

Report: Without safeguards, Internet and IoT may create surveillance states in near future

Surveillance capitalism: Who is watching us online — and why? – CBC 2020 Massey Lecture

Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy