The Spy who arrived from the Digital World

A Story about the Digital World

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In 1963 John le Carré blew us away. As he boldly stated in his preeminent novel – “it is devious, it is about shadows, and it involves lying and betrayal.”
What on Earth was he speaking of? There are traitors on your side, cunning turncoats facing you across the Iron Curtain? Good lord! Nothing is what it seems, mind-numbing fear, torture, and if you’re caught, may some higher power have mercy on your soul.
This is fiction of course, but with the recent discovery of potential data sharing agreements between social media giants and vendors, fiction is bumping face-to-face with reality. Our world is not something we consume over Netflix but rather one we are taking part in day in and day out.
A “mole” (cue the iconic James Bond music) usually takes years to develop. By the time sensitive information has been hacked a good decade could have passed. But today, in 2018, that takes seconds with Big Data in social media.
Earlier this week, it came to light that a social media giant has been blocked in China since 2009 and said company has been trying to find other ways to access this sought after market. This social media giant has confirmed it maintains a data-sharing partnership with Chinese firms, which U.S. intelligence previously flagged as a security threat.
Democracy is rooted in power to the people. But what we are seeing are powerful elites, small cadres of connected people, who because of their access to information, can leverage it in powerful ways to influence a whole host of things at a societal level.
In our own naivety, everyday information falls in the wrong hands for the wrong reasons. Why has the world’s most powerful search engine applied for a patent to collect personal information over wi-fi as a tool to strengthen their location services system? Odd …
Social networks know their users’ age, sex, location, hobbies, interests, income, education, TV watching habits and toothpaste preferences (seriously). When sellers or companies are able to acquire this data – game on.
Potential vendors can leverage said data to subsequently define how they market to them, time of day, type of product, and grab hold of them on social media.
Granted, with the GPDR we are better equipped to switch on and off this virtual-espionage. We don’t mind if the spies of the world have their phones and houses bugged, but suddenly when normal people’s privacy is raided we are far more up-in-arms over it.
The gap between harmless social media following and criminal behavior is larger than we like to believe. Let’s face it, social media giants and others must act more responsible.
Over every generation, some choose the destructive path of betrayal, harming their surroundings, while others trust in democracy and ethical business. In the digital world, there are three things that keep people optimistic when data-sharing or leaking, doom and gloom news surfaces – our personal commitment to our sacred goals, bonds of trust within communities, and the example of generations of people who served before us who also weathered betrayals. Apps, of all things, keep us organically connected. Community unifiers like and others are beacons, and we must grab hold, head and heart first. We keep the faith, serve our societies with integrity, and expect to pass the torch to a new generation who will do the same.
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