What to do with your “Big Data”?

Why should you care?

After the hacks of iCloud photos and Adult Friend Finder you should give up the idea that your most private information will stay private if you entrust it to an online service.
If you still had that romantic idea 2 years after Snowden, that is.

“Big Data”, one of the current IT buzzwords, will only increase the trend of formerly private information becoming more and more public. Insurance and advertisement companies, earning money proportionally to their ability to profile people, would love nothing more than know all about you: Your average heartrate, blood sugar, location at any point in time, time you usually get up in the morning, how fast you drive, your most private thoughts …

While the buzzword usually only means the intelligence gathered from the sum the quality of each part is important as well: The more private any piece of information is supposed to be the more valuable, “Big”, it is.
It works the same way for intelligence agencies, domestic as well as foreign.
Using the combination of this data these companies and agencies will get pretty precise pictures of individuals, aggregating it for many will allow the same for whole populations.
If that outlook does not worry you a healthy dose of Orwell, about 5 pages of “1984” administered daily over a course of 2 weeks, should do the trick ;-)

This is still very vague for many, though. Following a line of thought like “I don´t care if the government knows, as long as my neighbours don´t.” they still feel safe.
Well, unlucky them: The information from both of the hacks mentioned above is publicly available, for example.
Their neighbours might know after all.

Others simply resign, giving up the sovereignty over their information.

In my opinion both reactions are wrong.
Even though everyone seems to be listening these days you still get to choose quite a lot.
Which brings me neatly to the next point:

What is data privacy anyway?

For me it´s 2 choices: If you store data and how.

The “if” means storing only data that you imagine will be useful to you in the future. Not to your insurance company but you, personally.
The best way to keep your information private is not to record it at all. To practice “data frugality”, if you will.

The “how” is a scale that gets less private and more convenient, from left to right and roughly looks like this:
Memory — encrypted pen & paper writing — unencrypted pen & paper writing — encrypted local digital data — unencrypted local digital data — encrypted centralized (“cloud”) data — unencrypted centralized (“cloud”) data — public data.
The second best way to keep your information private is to pick the most private way to store it that is still feasible.

What exactly can you do?

Pick wisely.
What you store at all, as well as how.

A personal example:
For my “biggest” piece of data, my journal of positive memories, i decided that I want to store it in some way as my memory alone will not suffice. I imagine my future self will profit from this information, at the very least getting some good laughs. That settles the “if”.
Now as much as I love the historic accounts of writing using some elaborate code I would not want to do that.
Way to impractical.
In fact even my uncoded handwriting sucks. Also I am as afraid of it getting into the wrong hands after duplicating it as I am of losing the only copy. Last but not least it is quite likely that I find myself with time but without pen & paper.
So I chose digital, as I imagine a lot of people will, out of convenience.

But the choice did not stop there. Following the privacy scale mentioned above I picked what I consider to be optimal for myself: A way to store my encrypted digital data locally. For that purpose I built “Highlights”.
If you like the idea of storing your positive memories with this particular trade-off between convenience and privacy you might like it as well :-)