Data Protection

Data Protection
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After it came to light that Cambridge Analytica, along with Facebook, had taken recourse to unethical practices in terms of misusing information about people, data protection is now on the agenda of governments and their regulatory bodies, across the world. This is an issue of serious import and consequence. Data in the hands of either mega corporations or governments is liable to misuse. In certain senses, we might be back to the age of “Big Brother”, albeit in a different permutation, combination and context, wherein governments use data and techniques to keep a tab on people or even use information against their respective citizenries. The popularization of Information, and Communication Technologies(ICT’s) was supposed to usher in an era of more democratization and empowerment of people. And, virtual spaces were held to be rather unencumbered and free spaces. But, as ICT’s become more sophisticated and their reach expanded, there are clear cut signs and even dangers of monopolies by major firms and attempted control of these technologies and spaces by governments. At the end of the day, it is the end users, that is, people who are the targets of both, either for surveillance or commercial purposes. What then can be done to protect peoples’ privacy and rights and or exploitation for political or commercial purposes? ICT’s are a reality that cannot be wished away and they have both a sanguine and also a dark side. Key to reaping the good or sanguine side of thee and perhaps even big data and data analytics, is to arrive at a balance between regulation and freedom in the virtual world. That is, data and the virtual world must not be allowed to be monopolized. There should be competition in the conception, design and use of ICT’s and this competition must be subject to prudent regulation. But, the question is, who would regulate? If it is only governments, then monopoly power would rest with these making it difficult to put a check on governments’ misuse of data and ICT’s. Perhaps more effective and prudent would besides regulation to vest supranational bodies with powers of oversight and even regulation. In the final analysis, the world cannot roll back ICT;s and big data, but what can and must be done is to ensure transparency, regulation of a benign and effective nature , all overlaid by supranational and transnational oversight, the sooner the better.

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