LET'S PROTECT OUR DATA RIGHTS!
LET'S PROTECT OUR DATA RIGHTS!
How Gen Z Can Reform Data Rights
How youth all over the world, can change the way our data is being used to control a nation.
“ The time is always right to do what is right.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
When Martin Luther King Jr. first said this quote, he was leading the largest social movement of the 20th century, in the United States. The Civil Rights Movement, led by many black Americans of the Baby Boomer Generation (1946-1964), was a feat to end racial discrimination and gain equal rights under the law. Today, in a now digitally connected age, a new movement arises, with an influential generation to head it. Generation Z (1996-TBD) is growing up in a world where data is now being considered the oil of the Digital Age, and it is their data that is the most valuable. Youth living in this new Information Age have the power to take control of their data, and create a safer and more sustainable digital world.
A new term has surfaced to describe the unethical system of free-flowing and unregulated data, “dataism”. This new “ism” is not an insignificant term used to generate “fake news”, but in reality a crucial piece to understanding how our data is being used. Generation Z is constantly sharing and selling their personal data, unknowingly, to large “big-data” corporations. Without their consent, companies like these can use this free-flowing data to change their perception of everything. From political views, to even the way they view themselves, data is being used to control and regulate a nation.
“Data is the most valuable asset on Earth,” said Brittany Kaiser, former Cambridge Analytica director, and the data collected on the youth of our nation, is the most valuable. “ I am a teenager living in America. Why should I care about this,” asked every teen reading this article, and the answer is simple. Your data is the most valuable because it’s your opinion that matters the most. From protests on #BlackLivesMatter, unsafe conditions in schools, and gun violence laws, students across the U.S. have used their voice to spread awareness on major issues. As the world continues to pass many technological feats, it is our youth who embrace the change. It is the youth who have the power to make a change, and big-data companies are terrified. “ … What is required is nothing less than a new Civil Rights Movement,” said Ravi Naik of The Guardian, and it is Gen Z who will lead it. Gen Z grew up leaning on the internet, learning on the internet, living on the internet, and now they must defend it.
Though Gen Z can ultimately lead the change, they can also be a large part of the problem. The fact that social media likes and comments are what now define our youth, just adds to the way big-data companies control them. 45 percent of Generation Z in the U.S. receive a mobile service plan between the ages of 10 and 12 , and 72 percent of Generation Z have access to all mobile wireless services including voice, messaging, and data (Ryan Jenkins, Next Generation Speaker). These insights into Gen Z’s thought process, is exactly what large data corporations search for. Ryan Jenkins also adds that, 42 percent of Generation Z say social media affects self-esteem, compared to 31 percent of Millennials, 23 percent of Generation X, and 20 percent Baby Boomers. Though many may not notice it, their relationship with the internet and their own individuality, is what makes them so prone to data-mining.
Netflix released a documentary entitled “The Great Hack” which, in simplest terms, gives viewers an in depth look into how their data is being used to hegemonize a nation. To be more candid, your digital footprint - i.e what you like and comment on, who you follow, and how you use the internet - is being used to change your political and personal opinions. You are being controlled and manipulated everyday, of course, without your knowledge and consent.
Obviously, when you grow up surrounded by the internet, it is far from easy to just stop. To tell yourself to stop using social media, stop ordering online, to give up on Amazon, would be to stop living. Our everyday lives are supported by technology, and it is not escapable. So how do we make a change? I would first challenge you to observe your own relationship with social media, and how your actions impact others. To like and comment carelessly, would be to give up on yourself, your peers, your nation. I would also say to start from square one, and to make a change on your own terms first. For instance, sign this petition, and persuade others to see their world from a different perspective as well. We must spread the word, not through meme, not through fake news, and not through a mindless post. We must tell everyone, through facts and honesty, that we are afraid of what our future might look like, if we don’t make a change now. If we don’t attack this head on, we will create a dystopian world that we cannot undo.