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English
Talk
Everyone
Dark side of your digital profile (or: how did it happen that we lost control?)

Short thesis

Your digital profile extends far beyond the data you feed into mobile apps. What you may not be willing to say, is likely to be revealed by your behavioural data. If there are missing bits in your profile, this data will be inferred by algorithms. It will be statistical truth - not your personal truth - but from market perspective it does not really matter. We are no longer users of "free" online services. Becoming fuel for surveillance capitalism, we lost voice and control. How did it happen?

Description

Your data profile extends beyond the data you feed into mobile apps. What you may not be willing to say, is likely to be revealed by your behavioural data. If there are missing bits in your profile, data scientists will fill them by comparing you and millions other users. It is the job of algorithms to do the guessing. It will be statistical truth - not your personal truth - but nobody else will care. This profile will inform your scoring, recruitment opportunities and the content of your newsfeed. It will shape your life chances and life choices.

It would be nice to know who we are in the eyes of algorithms, right? In theory, we can do that. Even those of us who don't read privacy policies and click "OK" without thinking twice. According to GDPR we can always say "check!" and access all the data that we ever gave up and all the data that was ever generated about us. It is a lot, possibly more than you can imagine and certainly more than you can remember. 

In practice, getting full access to this knowledge is nearly impossible. Companies guard the results of their algorithmic analysis, treating them as business secrets. And even if they were ready to share more - to reveal all the logs and all behavioural observations they made - as human beings we would not be able to process or verify this information. As human beings we don't have tools to understand how our data dandruff may turn into a meaningful profile. The imbalance of power and information asymmetry between us and tech companies makes this conversation impossible.  

How did it happen? How and when did we  users of "free" online services that are there to make our life easier to being a fuel for surveillance capitalism, with no voice and no control?