Big brother is watching you.

Photo by Fredrik Bedsvaag on Unsplash

The first time I noticed the importance of digital privacy was back in my middle school ages. Back then, I lived in the students’ dorm and got used to listening to the radio before going to sleep. Usually, there was a program talking about telecommunication fraud cases. Once I thought these frauds were quite ridiculous. The trick they played was dull and fixed; usually calling someone and telling them that either winning lotteries or children being kidnapped. I always laughed about those stupid cheaters but also confused about why so many people could fall into such a common trap.

Now with some knowledge of data and algorithms, I get to know the true magic those telecommunication frauds are playing with, and I believe they are doing the same thing as some big Internet companies doing today. First, what they need is data, a lot of data, including people’s phone numbers, names, and some personal information. I read some news that, in China, these personal profiles were easy to be hacked on the Internet or even sold by phone companies. After gathering a huge amount of “data”, in this case, personal information, they classified these data into different categories. For example, if they want to make a fake kidnap call, they need to list out those who have children otherwise they are just wasting time calling random numbers. Finally, they will find those weakest groups of people to make fraud phone calls, usually elders or low-educated people. The whole process of telecommunication fraud is quite like Internet companies such as Google, YouTube, and Tencent doing today, which includes gathering data, putting data in, and coming out the result that fits you the best. And what makes me worried about is that we are experiencing such a process every day, not under the name of telecommunication fraud, but by the name of the algorithm.
So, is the algorithm positive for our society if they are widely used to predict ourselves?

The case I found was about China’s data privacy as the link below. As we Chinese all admit, we were somehow experiencing the misuse of our information online by either the government or large Internet companies. This article mentions the new editing Chinese Internet Security Law which guaranteed some free choices of sharing privacy. However, the article also poses some critics about the emergence of health codes during the pandemic. Chinese were forced to bound with health codes which enables them to use public transportations. Those health codes had the authority to access citizens’ health situations, locations, and even personal profiles. Thus, with the health codes, people could truly feel that “Big Brother is watching them”.


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Hanfei Wu

Hanfei Wu

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