Pioneering platforms such as Google, Amazon and Facebook have created an empire based on complex and sophisticated digital companies whose business model is based primarily on extracting and analysing data, and then supplying it to third parties. However, these models have drawn criticism in recent years and given rise to regulatory environments with a strong awareness of privacy and security issues. We spoke with Paloma Llaneza, an opinion leader and one of the top experts on regulation and the legal framework for technology in Spain.
Paloma Llaneza, CEO of Razona LegalTech, eIDAS-TI Technical Director at CERTICAR and founder of The Llaneza Firm, shows in her book Datanomics – using data, reports and proven facts – what tech companies really do with our personal data and how they use it to make a profit, while we give it away for free without a second thought.
To analyse the ideal balance between service and privacy and explore the new scenarios and regulatory environments that await Esade alumni, the Esade Alumni Business Innovation & Technologies Club organised a session entitled “Titans of Data”, where Paloma Llaneza explained the functions of panopticons by way of contextualising the current situation.
A panopticon is a structure where everything that happens on every floor of the building is visible from a central surveillance point: the concept is not architectural but philosophical, and based on punishment. “We are a panopticon society,” Paloma explained. “We are willing to behave well while being watched. That’s why we get the privacy paradox: we won’t give out our data for a study, but we do allow Facebook and Google to penetrate our privacy by activating microphones and cameras. And these titans of data are capable of doing very efficient data harvesting without us realising it. We are constantly being watched by these companies, to a serious extent.”
“The titans of data want to know what we are like, how we are feeling. They want to peer into the soul of consumers and generate a quick, instinctive response in us”
In Paloma’s view, the question of whether the use of these devices is truly voluntary remains open, since there is a social component that pushes us to do so and, moreover, the whole thing is designed to make us unable to quit. The problem, according to Paloma, is that the perception of risk among users is very low. People are not aware of how much information their mobile phone gives away without them even touching it. These companies have tons of permissions to access your mobile phone, even with regard to the way you move the phone and type.
The titans of data want to know what we are like, how we are feeling. They want to peer into the soul of consumers and generate a quick, instinctive response in us. By knowing what people are like and how they are feeling at any given moment, companies can sell them whatever they need emotionally at the right time. And this knowledge of customers allows them to intervene in public life.
This situation has been made even worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, since the health crisis was accompanied by electronic panoptical control: “We are all in shock, whether we want to admit it or not. Our amygdala has been hijacked and our flight response has been activated by fear, which manages our high levels of anxiety and cancels out our slower mode of thinking that allows us to make calmer and less radical decisions. In this context, companies approach us and promise to try to solve our problems. In return, we give them the ability to micro-monitor our lives. Tech companies will not let the opportunity afforded by the pandemic pass them by.”
According to Paloma, this is how our homes have gone from being private spaces to public spaces during the pandemic. The overall effect will be a weakening of the notion of one’s home as a private space. “Any society that wants to maintain the rule of law must also maintain privacy and security. We have to make privacy attractive and sexy. We have to figure out how to do this.” She added, hopefully: “The organisations that are going to suffer the most from losing their privacy should take the initiative to change things.”