If Privacy is the Question, Digital Slavery is not the Answer

Chris Herd
Jun 4 · 4 min read

We are all Digital slaves. You. Me. Your Parents. Children if you have them.

Privacy is the biggest challenge we face today, and even more so in the future. It’s so difficult because the problem is not physically apparent. How can something be true that we don’t feel or see, nor does it require us to expend any effort or energy?

Other people or corporations owning any part of our digital identity leads to exploitation of our privacy and attention. We don’t own our virtual identities, other things or people do. We don’t profit from our personal data, privacy or attention, other things or people do. We are subjugated, exploited and put to work by Multi-Billion dollar enterprises who profit from our participation.

Attention economy conglomerates leverage this to enrich themselves while exploiting us. But we don’t feel it. It’s something we are intrinsically aware of, and increasingly so, but for convenience we agree to free products and services in return for being taken advantage of. We can’t see the value or tangibility of our participation so its value to us is impossible to judge.

Until we recognize the problem we can’t even begin to start changing it.

It should be considered a form of servitude, where our attention, data, and privacy is exploited to enrich others. We are indentured to these services. Sure we can leave, but almost universally our data remains. We have contributed so much to the platform it becomes impossible to tear ourselves away. The sunk cost fallacy keeps us hanging on. We see the stories of data leeks, we’ve experienced the rise in the value of these massive platforms, and what has our reward been? Loss of privacy on a scale hitherto unimaginable in human history.

Looking back 30 years from now Web 2.0 will not be recalled fondly. I expect our grandchildren will question us with contempt ‘you let companies own and control your personal data without any oversight of what it was used for or the implication of that?’. Precisely — and we did nothing about it.

Who owns you?

Physically you are free. Digitally you are not.

We need to own both our digital and physical selves. As the boundary between the two continues to blur the problems caused will become increasingly apparent. Those who don’t own both our physical and digital selves are slaves to the master who own their digital identities. The gatekeepers who put our digital selves to work and reap all the profit.

This is an incredibly precarious situation to find ourselves in. Our ability to control and influence proceedings is enabled by regulation that either helps or hinders. Do you want to be a digital slave? The answer is no if you recognize that you are but you have no feeling about it until you do.

There are few answers currently. The infrastructure to reclaim, own and control our digital identities does not currently exist.

This is the situation we find ourselves in, right now we are forced to choose free services and massive exploitation of who and what we are or not. The issue becomes when this will change. Without the rise of technology to turn the tables this is something that we will continue to experience as we contribute to and enrich a larger digital footprint every day.

The future is private, it’s just not very evenly distributed yet. There are challenges that must be overcome — how can we own and control out digital assets while maintained the existing services we have grown used to using and needing? How can we give them access while maintaining full transparency of what our attention and personal data are being used for?

The danger is that people simply become batteries that power the machine, where data attention and privacy are the power. They are already the currency that lines the pockets of other people but we have not yet reached a point where this is likely to be fatal. Or have we?

Technology must emerge far more quickly. Right now we create such an abundance of daily information that it becomes harder and harder for us to reclaim the gargantuan volume of information that exists within innumerable silos across the internet. Our challenge is to acquire all these pieces of information as quickly as possible, delete them from the service providers then give them access while having the power to revoke this at any time.

So the challenge for people is to do something that has never been done before, and for us, the challenge is to take this back without making it onerous for people to do so. It needs to happen like magic in the background where those people sign up, connect their email, social media and bank accounts and the service just finds all the bills and service that they have.

That is how easy it needs to be. We need to let people reclaim this information with the click of 3 buttons. Their sharing of credentials it the only way to do this. It remains to be seen whether this will ever be done, but AI and ML are almost at a place that this could work. We want to do this as quickly as possible before the attention economy conglomerates mentions previously have more information about us that we can’t catch up with them.

That potentially has already occurred. This is the challenge if our time and one that we overcome. Digital slavery is almost inevitable at this point and that is what we already are for Google, Facebook, and others. How can we change this? A digital asset bank where all this information is yours — you become the only person in the world who owns their holistic virtual identity and you can use it to unlock value that was previously impossible.

It is coming.

Chris Herd

Written by

Founder & CEO @Nexves. Trying to help everyone keep more of their money. Blog about tech, blockchain, crypto, books, strategy & life ✌