The Dark Arts of Data Tradeoffs

by | Mar 9, 2019 | Development, ICT4D |

I’m level 5 Google local guide

When you review places and add photos to Google maps, Google gives you points to incentivise you to do it more. They have a whole scoring system for this. Once you reach a certain point level, Google will ask you if they can send you questions, track more of your movements, etc. and then as you go near locations, you’ll begin receiving messages asking you to rate places you’ve been and to share information about places. The more data you share the more points you receive and the higher you climb on the Local Guide scale.

Google has incentivised us to allow them to track us and it works. We trade our data for a feeling of importance and value. You could go so far as to say we trade our surveillance free lives for one in which we are tracked and monitored.

With the introduction of GDPR last year, we had a trade our data for access to websites. In order to access a website we needed to agree to allow the website to track our activities or at very least store a ‘cookie’ on our device. The same goes for accessing ‘free wifi’ in shops; it’s not free, you pay for it with your data. If we choose no, we don’t get access – that should be a clue that it is not free.

When organisations work with vulnerable people, we ask people to consent to us collecting, storing, and sharing their data; they almost never say no because they need and want the aid. Aid to be freely given, but some days it feels like we are moving towards a world in which access to aid requires payment by data and agreeing to be tracked.


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