Dr Johnny Ryan, Chief Policy & Industry Relations Officer at private web browser Brave, explains how the company is taking the fight to the personal data industry
“Everyone is being heavily surveilled and profiled,” warns Dr Johnny Ryan, Chief Policy Officer at Brave, a new privacy-focused web browser. “Information about what you’re reading, watching and listening to online is being broadcast out to hundreds of thousands of companies; this happens hundreds of billions of times a day, everywhere.” It is, in Ryan’s words, “the biggest date breach that we’ve ever experienced.”
Although awareness of tech companies’ data gathering has grown in recent years – especially with the 2018 introduction of GDPR – many consumers still struggle to know what’s happening with their data and who they can trust with it. Ryan – who will deliver a keynote at the Cloud Expo Europe Main Stage this March – says Brave is the answer to this problem.
What is surveillance capitalism and why should you care?
While being followed around the internet by tracking-based ads may feel like a small inconvenience for an otherwise free service, Ryan suggests that the current model that internet browsers like Google Chrome permit is deeply problematic.
“If you think about elections, I can profile you based on everything you’re reading, watching and listening to, the apps you’re using, the whole shebang. I can sell that profile to anyone who wants to buy it. This may threaten democracy.” Ryan is quick to point out this is an extreme scenario, but it is something to be concerned about.
More concretely though, the enormous data leakage in the online advertising causes real risks to individuals. “Will this have an impact on the price of your next airline tickets? Your seat might cost less or more than mine. Will you get health insurance? Will you get that mortgage?”
In the short term, handing over data might not feel like a big issue to the average consumer, but Ryan says we need to think of the bigger picture: “We are not thinking about the long term hazards of being profiled by companies who will provide a profile to anyone who pays for it.”