In 1968, a gent who is best remembered for the iconic print poster of Marilyn Monroe, had stated “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes. “Andy Warhol’s words are now at the core of the privacy debate sparked off yet again as celeb follows yet another celeb in trying out an app which uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to create an aged look out of current images they share.

A Twitter storm erupted when a user called out the “Russian” company behind the app, hinting or rather opinionating that since the developers are Russian, the app may not be kosher. Given that a section of the US media and social media believe that Russian technology and social media were used to manipulate opinions and outcomes in the last US Elections, the controversy quickly swung into trending space.

And while the issue of internet privacy, cyber security, identity theft rage on the business and political worlds, the average Instagram user couldn’t care less about the amount of data s/he is sharing when s/he is uploading her latest selfie or the profiling that any other app can do basis the filters s/he uses. The big four of the digital space (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) GAFA for short, already know you better than your own mother, then what’s the issue?

Notice that these are all US incorporated global companies, they answer to a social political system that still incarcerates people for opening and reading other people’s mail. I remember the incredulous look on the face of a Silicon Valley techie, when I showed him how I auto-type with predictive text on a popular e-mail service. For that matter, I use predictive text wherever I can just for the heck of it, since there is so much of it all around. “XX has sent you a connection request.”

Things change when the developers are based outside the US as in China for TikTok, or even Russia for FaceApp. These countries and societies have existed within the Orwellian “Big Brother is watching” framework and that is getting curiouser and curiouser with facial recognition being deployed to grant or restrict access to public spaces and services like metro rides and airports.

So, here’s a ready reckoner on what to do with the algorithms of privacy and internet fame.

  • If you’re a young Millennial or GenZ – you’ve been uploading your images and emotions on various platforms since age 13 (the legal age to have a Instagram, Facebook, Google account)
  • If you’re a young professional with a background as above – please make your posts private, at least your prospect employers will know a little less than the social media platforms
  • If you’re somewhere in the middle and not yet a senior- remember, everything you do on online can be used to profile you. You can choose to not care and embrace your new found ‘influencer’ status like a young Millennial or follow the “no visible tattoos’ policy that your employer has.
  • If you’re a senior, you have every reason to be worried- media and social media are full of stories about people making off with your retirement money by hacking into that one password you use for everything from Facebook to banking.

In balance, privacy concerns fly in the face of the human instinct that gives you a dopamine high with each new like or comment on your post/selfie/ filter. And whenever you’re posting something like how you would look at 40, you are giving something away to the servers whether they be in Russia, or Amazon and Google Cloud. Read my earlier piece on the Flip Side of Social Media.

If you really want something to be private, don’t take it online.

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