Take back your privacy online. Several practical suggestions

Costica Dumbrava | A citizen with a view | August 2019 

We often hear that we are our data meaning that our digital information and interactions are increasingly replacing our bodily presence. But as we are becoming our data this data is becoming less ours. We can blame it on the Internet, the big tech giants and/or on our giving away our valuable information in exchange for email services and funny cat videos. The truth is that our data is incessantly collected, combined, analysed, sold, stolen, etc., and, despite everyday headlines about more or less creative uses and abuses of our data, we remain only vaguely and abstractly aware about when and how it happens. Well, it happens now and here while you read this post in your cookie-stuffed browser while logged into your several social media accounts and plugged into a multitude of unassuming but data-vorous mobile apps. It is said that privacy is dead in the digital age. I do not believe it. Even if it were so, I do not think it should be this way. So what can one do to safeguard some of their privacy online? Here are few practical suggestions based on common sense and  a couple of hours of online research.

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The Citizen, the Tyrant, and the Tyranny of Patterns

Costica Dumbrava | A citizen with a view | Published on Verfassungsblog, Debate «China‘s Social Credit Sysrem» | June 2019


I agree with Wessel Reijers that social scoring systems limit political freedom and instrumentalise citizenship to impose social control. While technologies have always been used for political ends, the latest technologies relying on big data and complex algorithms offer uniquely powerful and highly effective tools to survey people, quash dissent, and reinforce an authoritarian rule. What is new is a wide appeal of technologies as ‘fixes’ for pressing social and political issues. Building on their ‘success’ in commercial sectors (banking and marketing), predictive algorithms and scoring systems are enthusiastically adopted by governmental agencies throughout the world to help making decisions in areas such as criminal justice, welfare, and border control. The Chinese Social Credit scheme is nevertheless unique because of its ambition to aggregate data from a wide variety of sources to provide a set of prescriptive algorithms for “good citizenship” that is backed by state coercion. 

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Link: The Cyborgs Are Here: Researchers Put Living Cells In A Robotic Finger

Researchers from the University of Tokyo Institute of Industrial Science have now created a biohybrid robot — a robotic device that incorporates living tissue — that remained functional for more than a week

Source: The Cyborgs Are Here: Researchers Put Living Cells In A Robotic Finger

Link: The Wizard and the Prophet: On Steven Pinker and Yuval Noah Harari – Quillette

Mann maintains that intellectual life in the 21st century is defined by a civil war between Wizards, who believe that technology will save us, and Prophets, who see various kinds of disaster on the horizon…

Source: The Wizard and the Prophet: On Steven Pinker and Yuval Noah Harari – Quillette

New business: Store biological and ‘mind’ samples for online afterlife or later resurrection

By combining a LifeNaut Bio File™ account with a LifeNaut Mind File™ account, there is a chance that future technology will be able to grow you a new body from your stored live cells and allow you to then download your conscious mindfile into that body.

via Learn More About BioFile – LifeNaut

Link: Uber and Self-Driving Cars Have More Than a ‘Trolley Problem’ – The Atlantic

A 50-year-old philosophical thought experiment has been central to the debate about autonomous vehicles. It’s time to give it up.

Ian Bogost: “When engineers, critics, journalists, or ordinary people adopt the trolley problem as a satisfactory (or even just a convenient) way to think about autonomous-vehicle scenarios, they are refusing to consider the more complex moral situations in which these apparatuses operate.”

Source: Uber and Self-Driving Cars Have More Than a ‘Trolley Problem’ – The Atlantic

The unbearable cleverness of algorithmic citizenship

Costica Dumbrava | A citizen with a view | March 2018


Adam: Have you watched the news?

Eve: Oh! Poor children…

Adam: Imagine, all three of them had genetic mutations that would have prevented them from living worthy lives.

Eve: Lucky fat guy!

Adam: Well, good that the trolley was connected to the Central Unit. Who else would have been able to tell?

Eve: Yet, poor children!

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Citizenship Forecast: Partly Cloudy with Chances of Algorithms

Costica Dumbrava |Contribution to GLOBALCIT Forum: Cloud Communities: The Dawn of Global Citizenship? | 2 March 2018
cyber_aTechnologies such as Blockchain could allow people to create virtual communities based on shared interests and sustained by instantaneous consent, beyond the reach of nosy governments and regardless of national borders. By widening access to rights, expanding political voice and creating more secure and diverse identities, digital citizenship could address current challenges related to the imperfect attribution of status and rights (statelessness, disenfranchisement), widespread political apathy among citizens and artificial divisions created by national borders. To paraphrase the text of a famous cartoon: ‘on the Internet nobody knows you are a foreigner’.  Continue reading

The avent of ‘datatorial’ regimes

WIRED: Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens
The Chinese government plans to launch its Social Credit System in 2020. The aim? To judge the trustworthiness – or otherwise – of its 1.3 billion residents

Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens | WIRED UK

Good datazens: New questions about technologies of good citizenship

datazensCostica Dumbrava | Technologies of collecting, sharing and analysing information have become central to contemporary policies of migration, border management and citizenship. In Europe and elsewhere, the establishment and gradual expansion of information databases, together with the deployment of a complex operational infrastructure for data collection, information sharing and risk analysis, plays an increasing role in managing migration and in determining access to key membership rights (entry, asylum, stay and freedom of movement). Continue reading

European information systems in the area of justice and home affairs

Costica Dumbrava |Published in: European information systems in the area of justice and home affairs,  European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS)

cyber_aHigh levels of irregular migration and the increase in transnational terrorist activities have pushed the EU to take concerted measures to strengthen its external borders and to enhance internal security. The revision and development of information systems for border management and law enforcement has been a key aspect of this response. Continue reading

Imagined genetic membership

Costica Dumbrava|Published in: Citizenship and Technology, Oxford Handbook of Citizenship

windows-787486_960_720The genetic revolution triggered by the discovery of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and bolstered by the recent mapping of all human genes (the Human Genome Project) has raised hopes about treating diseases, improving life, and even defeating death. However, the rapid development of genetic technologies also prompted concerns about the ‘geneticization’ of social life,[1] as human behaviour and social interactions are increasingly viewed through the lens of genetics. The worry is that population genomics studies will contribute to legitimizing and ‘naturalizing’ inequality and to the designation of new vulnerable groups based on arbitrary patterns and statistical correlations.[2] Continue reading