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Does Privacy Exist on the Internet of Things?

Over the last month there has been an unfathomable amount of content published about the massive privacy intrusion that is Facebook Messenger. With the ability to intrude into the lives of its users in ways that the NSA would never think to, it isn’t a surprise that the new download brought such strong opinions - many of which served as recommendations not to download the application.

The good news about the widespread dialogue on Messenger is that it brought to light the issues that surround privacy of data. Further implicating what some of us have always known: “When the service is free, the user is the product.” In other words, when companies like Facebook create applications that we use in our everyday lives, the real price is what we sacrifice for the right to use the application for free: our data.

Internet of Things, Big Data and Jargon, Contextualized

Perhaps the only word more abused and used in the tech space than “Internet of Things” is “Big Data.” In itself, Big Data means very little. It is merely the massive collection of information that resides out in cyberspace that is waiting to be somehow organized, visualized, contextualized and “-ized” in some other TBD capacity.

For Big Data it comes down to what you do with it; otherwise it is like an English major staring at endless strings of PHP or Java. It’s meaningless.

Having said that, what Big Data really is and has meant is a revolutionary approach to marketing. It is our behavior online that helps brands and organizations learn about us in ways that they can contextualize and apply to their marketing strategies, and from the time that this became so eerily apparent, marketers have been seeking out ways to exploit it.

In a world where the web is moving from a search state to a semantic state it is without question our data that makes this possible. In a recent series of articles I posted about the semantic web it talked about the marriage that is taking place between Big Data, Semantic Search and User Generated Content that is shifting the way we explore the web.

If you consider this as a possibility or a reality then you will quickly realize for the web to be semantic, it is dependent upon us as users to feed it our data. And in order for the web to collect our data, we need to voluntarily (even if not knowingly) give up our privacy so websites and brands can sell and use it to create this new online experience.

Our Privacy Died When We Grew Obsessed With Free

With Social Media users well over a billion and a growing mobile and wearable trends that puts us online almost around the clock, we are ever connected and endlessly sharing what seems like our every idea.

This feeling of connectedness undoubtedly gives many a sense of community and happiness as it is through the sharing of our everyday lives that we are able to garner the feedback we seek and the validity that we need.

However, if we are fooled for even a moment as to what all of this is really about - the desire to have us tethered without wires and connected without cost - then we are delusional.

I for one can say that I have almost never read the privacy policy of an application I downloaded. As a millennial, I suppose this puts me in the group of about half of us that are okay with trading our privacy for a potentially better experience online. Now, whether having more targeted ads and content during our everyday browsing is really a better experience is yet to be seen.

As a society, it really came down to our insatiable desire for free: free content, free social media, free productivity tools and free games. We want to be connected and we want to play with the latest games, toys and widgets, but by and large we don’t want to trade our cash for them. So instead we trade something else: our data and our privacy.

As long as you know what you are giving up and you make that choice, then you are fine. But know that whatever you know, “They” know, and that is the way it will be.

So here’s to a better web experience, marketers that know more about what we want than we do and a complete and total loss of privacy that really makes minimal difference in our lives. Heck, we share it all anyway. Don’t we?

But one thing is for sure, on the Internet of Things, there is no privacy.

This post was first seen on Forbes and can be found here.

Image: Facebook Messenger

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