August 25th 2018

  Buy Issue 3027

Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Current policies leave farmers high and dry in drought

CANBERRA OBSERVED Captain and Lieutenant's $444 million munificence

MEDICAL ETHICS Changes to AHPRA's code of conduct would gag doctors

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Trump delivers for U.S. economy and workers

CHILDREN AND SOCIETY Treating depressed children: How will history judge us?

PRIVACY Big Brother is marketing you

THE FAMILY Humanae Vitae: a prophetic document at 50

SOCIETY AND MORES Novel features of child sexual abuse in our time

EUTHANASIA International expert emphasises palliative care

BIOGRAPHY The trouble with Harry (Freame) is that we've forgotten him

OPINION Just asking ... sauce for the goose ...?

HISTORY Christianity has died. Agreed, and yet ...

MILITARY HISTORY The volunteering spirit proves best in the test


MUSIC Chilly exposure: The sound and the fury

CINEMA Mission Impossible: Fallout: Ethan Hunt, knight errant

BOOK REVIEW A good diagnosis enables the cure

BOOK REVIEW End of the American empire?



OPINION The Victorian ALP observed from up close

Books promotion page

Big Brother is marketing you

by Jean Seah

News Weekly, August 25, 2018

In today’s world, it is nigh impossible to conduct one’s personal or professional life without resorting to electronic means. E-banking is seamlessly integrated into most businesses; phone-banking apps track exactly how you spend your money, categorising spending into “shopping”, “groceries”, “eating out”, “utilities” and so on, ostensibly to help you budget better.

My fiancé found a distant jeweller who refuses to use e-banking, so he had to mail a money order, which – including secure postage – cost him $15 to send a $30 payment for simple repairs.

For young people especially, our social lives tend to be conducted simultaneously in person and through social media. We trust Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and SnapChat with the most intimate details of our lives, in our desire to be connected and heard.

Communicating from behind a screen gives one a false sense of privacy and security. Few heed Facebook or Twitter’s terms of service, which state that users give them “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licenseable, royalty-free, worldwide licence to use any IP content”.

Between January 2011 and August 2012, Facebook featured “Sponsored Stories”, advertisements targeted at your friends based on your activity, such as checking into a café or liking a brand’s fan page. After making $US230 million ($A310 million) on those ads, Facebook settled a class-action lawsuit for $US20 million, but continued creating similar ads paired with user data.

Personally, I have been using an ad-blocker on my laptop since the Zuckerbergs donated $US992.2 million in Facebook shares to a foundation funding Planned Parenthood. But that does not stop Facebook using my data for targeted marketing by third parties. Since my engagement, all sorts of wedding-related ads have been popping up on my phone.

There has been uproar over Cambridge Analytica’s claims that it used 50 million users’ data for targeted political advertisements during Trump’s presidential campaign. During Ireland’s abortion vote, Facebook and Google restricted foreign ads on the issue.

The Media Research Centre has found that Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube censor conservative speech, restricting pro-life advertising and manipulating the “trending” section. Left-wing technology news site Gizmodo acknowledged this in a recent article, noting that fake impersonation accounts trump real right-wing ones in search results. The official Twitter account of the President of the United States was deactivated for 11 minutes last November by an employee responding to a user complaint.

The latest hullabaloo has been over U.S. genetics-testing company 23andMe partnering with British multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline: 23andMe handed over users’ DNA for medical research. 23andMe has already published more than 100 scientific papers using its 5 million customers’ data, which customers uploaded for the purpose of tracing their genealogy.

This brings to mind the case of the Golden State Killer, whose relatives had uploaded genetic data to open-source site GEDmatch; he was identified through this. Family members whom we never knew existed can upload their DNA and open up a whole can of worms.

In Forbes, former FDA associate commissioner Peter Pitts notes: “Once genetic data has been linked to a specific person, the potential for abuse is vast and frightening. Imagine a political campaign exposing a rival’s elevated risk of Alzheimer’s. Or an employer refusing to hire someone because autism runs in her family.”

Insurance premiums may increase exponentially based on leaked genetic or medical data. It may even affect international politics. Just this past July 20, Singaporean authorities announced that 1.5 million patients’ records were exposed during a breach when the country’s largest health-care group, SingHealth, underwent a cyber-attack. In particular, the Prime Minister’s records were targeted repeatedly.

The stolen records included each patient’s name, address, gender, race, date of birth and national registration identity number. Banks have consequently been advised to tighten their data verification methods. It is believed that a state-sponsored intelligence organisation was behind the breach.

Closer to home, Commonwealth Bank cannot confirm the whereabouts of two magnetic tapes which were meant to be destroyed last year. They contained customer names, addresses, account numbers and transaction details.

In June, it was reported that thousands of Australian jobseekers may have had their personal information compromised in a malicious attack on PageUp, an international HR company used by Telstra, NAB, Coles, Target, Australia Post, Aldi, Medibank, Officeworks, Commonwealth Bank, Jetstar, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the Attorney-General’s Department.

The all-seeing eye of the internet can be employed by totalitarian states to control every aspect of peoples’ lives. For the last two years, China has been piloting a “social-credit system”, assigning a “personal citizen score” to each person based on their spending habits, jaywalking, filial piety and other monitored behaviour, blacklisting the unfavourable from jobs, loans and air travel.

No mercy for those who try to conform but are hampered by past peccadilloes for the rest of their lives.

Meanwhile in Australia, on October 13, 2015, a metadata retention regime was launched, with 21 government agencies gaining access to the data surrounding every phone call, text message and email for the last two years, apparently for counter-terrorism measures. Police have been using journalists’ metadata to track their sources. So much for the free press!

In 1985, Neil Postman wrote in Amusing Ourselves to Death: “Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history.

“As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. … In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”

Let us heed these prophets before we cede ever more control over our personal information to companies and governments. We cannot wait for governments to protect our data; we must regulate it ourselves.

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

Join email list

Join e-newsletter list

Your cart has 0 items

Subscribe to NewsWeekly

Research Papers

Trending articles

COVER STORY Murray-Darling Basin Plan based on debunked science

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell's appeal to go to High Court

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ABC survey finds majority agree there is unfair discrimination against religious Australians

COVER STORY Extinction Rebellion: So, it's goodnight to us and a big welcome to mega-bucks

South Park Calls Out Transgender Takeover of Women's Sports

COVER STORY Greta Thunberg: she's not doing it all on her own

RURAL AFFAIRS Queensland Labor punishes farmers to placate UNESCO

© Copyright 2017
Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm