The Threats of Digital Data

The Threats of Digital Data

Austin Hanson, Lead Editor


Ever since the very beginnings of the internet, there has long been a problem involving the rapid decline of digital privacy. This problem has been rooted primarily in the collection and sale of digital data from company to company to advertise products and services that are specifically catered to the consumer. While this may initially seem harmless, the extent of the knowledge that companies have about you is terrifying. 


Modern algorithms used by companies are so refined in learning and predicting what you do online to the point that they practically have direct control over your digital autonomy by forcing ads and videos that are strategically guaranteed to make you keep scrolling. The combination of this and the never-ending feeds of platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook creates a dangerous tool for companies. This type of web design is known as the “Infinite Scroll”, and it has become so efficient at poisoning its users into becoming addicted to their digital world that even its inventor has denounced its existence. 


“One of my lessons from infinite scroll: that optimizing something for ease-of-use does not mean best for the user of humanity,” Says Aza Raskin, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology and the inventor of the Infinite Scroll.


Mr. Raskin has since worked to change digital infrastructure to prevent the exploitation of its users through its algorithms. This change of heart came after Raskin discovered just how much the infinite scroll was affecting people’s lives.

 “Infinite scroll at the very minimum wastes 200,000 human lifetimes per day. That’s why I chose a new life.” – He said.

This staggering estimation shows just how much of a chokehold these companies have on people’s lives, and it seems like it will only get worse. These companies have become known for buying their way into social dominance via mergers and acquisitions, and the most notorious of all is Amazon. 


The acquisition of iRobot, the company that created the Roomba, is among the most recent purchases by Amazon and has raised concerns over their intentions with this new insight into peoples’ homes. This concern comes with the history of Amazon’s expansion into an increasingly more diverse market over the years, with products like the Echo making it more convenient for their corporation to use your data to advertise their products as efficiently as possible. 


The expansion of these companies is not only trying to root themselves in our lives though, as they’re even more so involved in our government. Lobbyists have become a blockade for politicians aiming to increase digital security, attempting to prevent privacy laws from passing all over the country. Amazon alone has spent a total of $10.6 million just this year. For Meta, $10.7 million, for Google, 6.7 million, and Apple, $4.5 million. It is extremely important to realize just how much these companies are working to limit digital privacy, and even though they may present themselves as the very protectors of your data, they truly aren’t.


The problem with these products isn’t necessarily privacy itself, but more the sheer control that companies like Amazon have over your online autonomy. They use your data to influence and predict what you do, what you like, what you need, and most importantly what you buy. At the end of the day, the only thing that these companies care about is how to make as much money as possible.