How datafication has stolen our privacy?

As the technology developed, we can’t live without smartphones or computers. We use high-tech products with functions and apps to work, study and life. A research report published by the GSM Association which represents the interests of mobile network operators in the whole world shows that the number of smartphone users is expected to grow to 5.7 billion by 2020, equivalent to three-fourths of population in the world.

Unfortunately, we heard about the disclosure of users’ privacy in many platforms and even country steal our privacy through social media and news reports. In digital era, do we really have no privacy anymore? What do platforms and nations do with our data? How can we protect our privacy?

Some ways of privacy leaked

When we use smartphones or some high-tech products, there are a lot of sensors or hackers resulting our personal information leaked.

First, we must download some apps on our smartphones and have to get application permission before using the app. The application permission includes positions, photo album and phone numbers of the contact. Most platforms get the personal information from users to target ads and articles to them. Some platforms even sell their personal information to other companies which cause users often receive harassing phone calls and emails.

Second, the camera and microphone on smartphones also can become tools to reveal personal privacy. Some programs on apps can secretly run your phone’s microphone and camera to monitor daily life and collect personal information such as bank accounts, passwords and insurance. Leakage of audio data and personal information may cause identity theft, bank card theft and fraud.

What’s more, it will also resulting in the leakage of our personal information and privacy because of software security loopholes. For example, Zoom which was a meeting application, was hacked and the lack of weak encryption led to some uninvited hackers getting in the video meeting. Furthermore, some video recordings of conference without permissions also appeared on public social media.


A lot of platforms build up their own information protection measures to protect users’ privacy. Facebook which is a famous social media platform build up a specific manner to protect users’ privacy. The manner is that users would have direct input on development of the sites of service which means users will be consulted to any advice by Facebook before changing its rules. There is a limit in this new rule is that the proportion of voter turnout must over 30%. Even though Facebook set up a series of rules to protect users’ privacy, some users think that it is difficult to achieve.


For example, a Chinese taxi app called Didi which is the biggest taxi service platform with 580 million users was exposed as illegally collecting user information. Because of the behaviour of collecting users’ privacy, Didi was fined more than eight billion yuan and banned permanently. 

To be specific, Didi is exposed by the Cyberspace Administration of China that collect users’ data without their consent. Here are the reasons why Didi banned. First, it was illegally collected 11,963,900 screenshots from users’ mobile phone albums. Second, it collected excessively passengers’ face recognition information over 107 million, age information 53.5092 million, career information 16.3356 million, family relationship information 1.3829 million and “home” and “company” taxi address information 153 million. What’s more, Didi frequently asked for irrelevant “phone rights” when passengers use hitch services. When these specific figures are published in the news, the public is more worried about their privacy. This news of Didi reveals the prevalence of platforms’ excessive collection of user data and there are gaps in the law of protecting privacy.


When the public use the high-tech products, they will always worried about whether or not daily data the platform got can be protect safely. Nowadays, cars become more and more convenient as our smartphones, they suffer the more challenges around monitoring, privacy and accountability.One thing happened in 2020 in Florida had deepened public concern about high-tech products.

There was an accident happened in Florida in 2020, two young men died in the fiery crash of a 2014 Model S and the father of the driver sued Tesla for producing a fire-prone battery. Tesla submitted a document of speed analysis and the document showed the car had dangerous driving history before the crash. When the document had been submitted, the public were shocked that the company traded our daily data by using a lot of sensors on the car. And this data were captured secrectly and uploaded to the platform’s server.

Even some people opine that if they don’t buy a Tesla, this problem can be solved, but the fact is that every new car has a bunch of sensors. For instance, there are cameras and radars to help the drivers capture data about surroundings for reducing traffic accidents. Then, many self-driving cars are equipped with in-car sensors like cameras, microphones and biometric sensor. These sensors are absolutely help the drivers improve the in-car experience but this data can also be monitored to collect drivers’ personal information and preferences. 


The personal information of users is not only captured by platforms but also may leaked because of hackers attack platforms. In this days, people are worried about the leakage of personal information.

Medibank which is one of the biggest insurance companies in Australia announced that its customer data had been seriously compromised. The data of millions of Medibank customers has been hacked and after Medibank refused to pay a ransom of 15 million Australian dollars, the scam organization behind the hack put the customers data to the dark web in stages. As a result, the personal information was posted on the dark web. About 9.7 million current and former customers’ personal information was leaked including 5.1 million Medibank customers, 2.8 million Ahm customers and 1.8 million international customers. The leaked customer information includes name, address, date of birth, medical insurance number, application number, phone number, data on claims made, location of medical services, details related to diagnostic procedures.

The incident has raised concerns about the state of data security in Australia and  Medibank’s image and credibility have taken a battering. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said it was a “serious and worrying” incident and called for a review of data privacy laws. The customers are worried about their private information be used for identity theft, fraud and other criminal activities.

The Medibank customer data breach is a serious incident that shows the importance of data security in the digital era. And it reveals that Australian governments and businesses should build up a law to strengthen data security and protect citizens’ privacy. Medibank has to upgrade its security system to protect the private information of customers if they want to prevent the incident happening again. The country should strengthen the Data security regulations to require platforms to make stricter manners to protect customer information.

The benefits of capturing our information

On the one hand, country and platforms capture excessively our personal information is a terrible thing. On the other hand, they collect users and citizens information to analyse their behavior and preference.

Companies use our preference to target ads and the contents to us. For example, Youtube use different ways to collect users’ information to achieve pushing video contents accurately. First, Youtube saves this data when users like or favourite a video. The platform use this information to analyse some videos they may like and recommend similar videos to them. Second, Youtube will keep data of all the videos users watched and makes an analyst to recommend similar videos to them. What’s more, Youtube will collect data from other sources, such as Google. And this information ca be used to recommend more personalizing videos to users.

Government collect data from citizens have some positive impact to protect their safety. One is that government can use locations and contact numbers to send warning messages and provide escape services. For example, jAlert which is a Japan earthquake early warning system sent the phone users successfully at the northeastern part of Japan in 2011. This helped people take measures tens of seconds in advance, reducing the number of death and injury. The other one is that government uses traffic data to analyzes the number of cars on the main roads. And then it adjusts traffic lights and take some traffic measures to ease traffic congestion.

Some countries develop some apps to capture citizens content of calls and text messages to prevent online scams. For instance, China government develop apps called “China’s Golden Bell” and “the National Anti-Fraud App” to regularly hold anti-fraud activities and raise citizens’ vigilance. Citizens can also check the safety of website address, telephone numbers and email address. If they feel suspicious about the information they get, they can also report it on the app.

Measures users can be taken

As Internet gowning up rapidly in recent years, people inevitably provide their personal information online to sign up for apps or platforms to make their lives more convenient. Citizens should take some measures to protect their personal information and defend their rights when their information is leaked.

When the public have to upload personal information on the Internet such as passwords of banks and platforms, address and healthy records, they should take some measures to protect their privacy. First, form a habit to change the passwords of banks, platforms and health insurance regularly. Second, people should avoid using personal information such as bank password or passport numbers when they use the public Wi-Fi. What’s more, before providing our personal information details to platforms people should make sure the websites or platforms its safety.

After the pubic privacy being leaked, there are some measures can be done to reduce harms and protect personal rights. First, people should immediately change the new passwords on all platforms such as banks, social media platforms and insurance accounts and monitor all accounts for any suspicious activities. If people find some transactions or activities unauthorized, report the banks or platforms immediately. Second, contact relevant organizations about the incident, like call the police. What’s more, if people are still worried about the incident of personal information leaked is used for identity theft or other criminal activities, they can also contact lawyers for help.

Measures platforms can be taken

As a platform which gain users personal information for providing personalized services to them, platforms should be able to protect users’ privacy. Firstly, platforms should arrange regular security system upgrade to protect users personal information will not be hacked by others. Secondly, make strict privacy rules and must tell users how platforms collect, use and share users’ personal information. And platforms must get users agreements before collecting their information. Thirdly, platforms must hold regular privacy training and education for their employees.

Measures countries can be taken

As a country, it is necessary to protect citizens’ right to privacy from being violated and make their citizens get safety to live in this country. First, country should make laws to to protect citizens’ privacy and set up specialized departments to monitor platforms. For example, the European Union has set up the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is one of the strictest privacy laws in the world. Second, the government can hold privacy education lectures regularly to enhance citizens’ privacy awareness and raise their protection of privacy rights. Also, the government can help citizens to know how to protect their personal information, such as providing carefully and using secure Internet connections. What’s more, country should participate in different cooperation and communications of protecting privacy to other countries and areas. In the meetings, they can gain experience from other countries of how to protect the citizens’ privacy and know the new cases of privacy violations.


As the developments of Internet and high-tech products, people’s personal information and privacy can not be protected well and there are risks of disclosure. Not only citizens should raise awareness of the protection of personal information, but also platforms and countries should make measures to protect users and citizens privacy.


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