Smart data

is Caring

How data and algorithms will soon determine our future, and how the inventor of the Internet wants to save his creation

How to protect your privacy
To effectively protect your privacy, you do not have to go into the forest. It is much easier with these eight simple tips.

  • You want to be a millionaire fast? Then you'd better start gathering data today. Because data is the new money. And Big Data is big money. You're not following? Don’t worry. Let's start slowly.
  • The bad news first: Maybe you haven't realized it yet, but you work for companies worth billions - completely free of charge. Because you provide valuable data without getting paid a cent. You're pretty much the modern miner in the data age, or "data miner" as it is called in modern German. Always diligently clicking, you deliver well-behaved. Day after day. Click by click. With every YouTube video you watch, every post you like, every question you google, you deliver valuable data. You send the question "appendix pain where?" to the search engine, according to Google one of the most common questions in the last year, and provide the algorithm with insights about your health. You watch videos on youtube about latte art, and tell an algorithm about your coffee preferences for free. Your robot vacuums your apartment, and you tell the manufacturer the exact floor plan and size of your apartment in square meters. Everything you have ever searched, liked, shopped, clicked, has most likely been saved by algorithms. Every sports wristband, every navigation system, every smartwatch, every digital scale with heart rate monitor, every website you visit and every app you use collects tons of valuable data, from your heartbeat to the frequency of your visits to the dentist.
  • And this ever growing mountain of information about you and every single person is constantly being analyzed. The programmers of the Internet giants are developing ever smarter algorithms that use this data to calculate ever more precise digital profiles about us, for example. According to a study by the Washington Post, the Facebook algorithm, for example, calculates 98 characteristics of you based on your surfing behavior, including your level of education, how expensive your house is, the year you bought your car, which TV shows you prefer to watch, whether you have credit on your credit card, and much more. Today's Stanford professor Michal Kosinski, a researcher at Cambridge University, has developed an algorithm that uses your Facebook data alone to create a precise personality profile of you. Are you more conservative or liberal? Rather impulsive and spontaneous or organized and hard-working? Are you calm or extraverted, competitive or a team player? The more you clicked "like", the better the algorithm knows you. From 70 likes and more, it can assess you better than a friend, from 150 better than your parents, and from 300 better than your own partner, says Kosinski, who compared the results of the algorithm with the results of personality tests. The personality tests were based on questionnaires that were filled out in advance by the test subjects.
  • Where is the good news? How much is your work as a data miner worth? No one will tell you, of course. At the latest, however, when such a company is sold or is valued on the stock exchange, or when cases like Cambridge Analytica come out of the darkness into the light, we know: With our data, others make billions. When Instagram was taken over, for example, it was $20 per user, with WhatsApp it was $55, and with Skype it was $200. Today, the Internet giants make billions with our data, helping companies place adver­tising that fits perfectly and sell products en masse. Because smart algorithms know very well that Mia from Munich is now getting excited about this certain pair of shoes and Michael from Michigan is getting excited about a bigger car, be­cause he and his wife just got a child and his current car is already six years old. The algorithm also knows how expen­sive the car can be and which car brand best fits Michael's personality profile.

    But the true power of our data only becomes apparent when we look into the future. Imagine, for example, two politicians are on an election campaign. One is using algorithms, the other is not. With unimaginable knowledge about each individual voter and the ability to convince with information that fits perfectly, the first politician has a decisive competitive advantage. If successful, and he will undoubtedly be, the politician will continue to let his algorithm decide which topics to focus on and which arguments to use. He will leave it up to the algorithm to decide which strategy he, or rather the algorithm, should pursue. After all, the algorithm is capable of generating an almost infinite sea of data in a short time and will therefore be able to calculate much more successful decisions than any politician or any campaign team could.

    And wouldn't it be great if algorithms could use biometric sensors in your body to tell you exactly how much omega 3 and vitamin B12 you should take in today so that your brain can function optimally and you become more efficient? And suggest your new favorite recipes and order and prepare the necessary products and meals for you?

Why this Internet is not in the spirit of its inventor and how an Open Data law could help

  • The trend is already apparent that we are leaving more and more decisions to algorithms. Algorithms that know more and more about us, algorithms that will eventually be able to use biochemical processes to control our emotions and thus our decisions. Algorithms, which we ourselves understand less and less at the same time.
  • Who we give our data to, their algorithms already decide today what billions of people see in their feeds and search results. To whom we give our data, in whose hands we place our future. This Internet is not in the spirit of its inventor: Tim Berners-Lee, unhappy about the development of his "baby", launched the open source platform Solid last year. This platform ensures that users have sole ownership of their data. More and more politicians are calling for the destruction of the Internet giants who keep our data to themselves and use it, such as US Senator Elisabeth Warren. Similar demands are also being made in the EU: The SPD, for example, is demanding that monopolies such as google and facbeook must share data in an anonymised form in order to undermine their position of power. The "Open Data Act" is intended to establish a legal claim to open data. The Greens are calling for a Europe-wide state alternative to facebook, financed by broadcasting fees instead of our data.

More and more people want user generated data to be made available to everyone in an anonymized form.

  • The only question is whether the power over our data is actually better off in politics than in business in the long term. In an interview with Welt, US military strategist Sean McFate even warns that states are already using the power of data and algorithms to wage a new kind of modern war. Instead of spending a lot of money on expensive tanks and fighter jets, more and more states are using much cheaper and above all more anonymous weapons, namely social bots and trolls. According to McFate, they manipulate the social media in a targeted manner to manipulate sentiment for their strategic interests. With the help of data, of course, which like a lubricating oil makes the manipulation machine really efficient and cost-effective: For only 300 euro Stratcom researchers could buy 50,000 interactions on Facebook according to a report.
    just published. The result of the Brexit, for example, is only one military
    strategic success of Russia to destabilize Europe, McFate said in the Interview with German newspaper „Welt". The key question is: Who should own the data. Because whoever owns the data will own the power in the future.

What it would be like if we could use the resource data to do good for all

  • Yet so much good could be done in the world with all this collected data! They could help save the environment, for example: How wonderful it would be if cities could use freely accessible, anonymous mobility data from car-sharing companies or navigation apps to ensure that buses and trams arrive on time, and only when they are needed. How much would the volume of traffic and CO₂ be reduced?
  • How wonderful it would be if all the health and vitality data collected by millions of owners of smart watches, digital body scales, fitness tapes and health apps such as sleep apps around the world were accessible to health researchers in anonymous form. They would be able to more easily identify patterns that cause disease and identify helpful interventions that prevent the emergence of disease. They would be able to identify more quickly which forms of therapy work best for a given patient and contain diseases before they even develop. The Corona crisis also shows how helpful such data can be used: Deutsche Telekom has provided the Robert Koch Institute with anonymized mass data from the mobile communications network so that researchers can more easily calculate predictions about the spread of the virus. More than 4 million people played the online game "Sea Hero Quest" and collected data for dementia research. How wonderful it would be if the wealth of data were not guarded like a treasure by a few like a treasure trove to further extend their already immense lead and monopoly position, but if instead we all had access to this data generated by all of us in anonymous form. If we could all help to decide on the design of the algorithms, in order to use them for the benefit of society as a whole.

Your vote counts
Online petitions, fake news, trolls - How the internet is changing democracy and how you can stand up for your interests on the net... This and more in the focus Digital Democracy.

From Startpage to Diaspora. Why you can do more than you think. Your contribution counts.

  • But pointing the finger at the "bad big ones" is easy, just doesn't get anyone anywhere. The good thing is that the Internet already offers many possibilities to help shape the web according to our own wishes:
  • Nobody forces us to feed search engines with our private secrets if platforms like provide us with the same search results, only without harvesting data and without a filter bubble). Nobody forbids us to socially connect via a social platform like Diaspora, which leaves all data to the users. Nobody forbids us from exploiting the democratic possibilities offered by the Internet and, for example, from giving our voice to online petitions calling for non-profit ecological data regulation in the world. No one is stopping us from joining movements on the net and electing politicians who distribute the resource of data more fairly around the world.

    Data and algorithms in themselves are neutral - what matters is what we make of them. The Internet makes great movements possible that the world really needs. Greta Thunberg shows how. Why shouldn't our net also help to make the net itself a better place again and help shape the future of data? Data sharing is caring. Tim Berners-Lee would certainly like that. And now it's your turn.
What's your opinion? Would you have biometric sensors implanted into your body if could live a lot longer by doing that?
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Whom should user-generated data belong to, and why?