A couple of weeks back, I logged into Amazon, the giant e-tailer and looked up a few options for a swimsuit that I planned to buy. It was meant to be a casual browsing session and all I wanted to do was to know what options I had!

What happened later was nothing casual. It was as if some virtual hounds caught my scent and followed me everywhere. Every time I logged into the internet, on work, email, to check on a friend, even to check if my money was safe in the bank, a swimsuit stared back at me  – screaming, teasing, chiding –

“You wanted it, you wanted it! Haven’t you bought one YET? WHY haven’t you bought it yet?”

Now, I don’t want a swimsuit.

Looking back at the incredible journey of technology, we have come to equate advances in technology with advances in convenience. It as if they are two sides of the same coin. Technology pervades our lives so much that we notice it only when we are verily inconvenienced. Ironic, but true.

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So why is the world battling over fancying convenience?

Ask any customer, or conduct a survey with any section of clientele about their top concerns with data and services- “privacy” tops the charts. Yet, with every online profile we set up, every service we sign up to – we are leaving little crumbs in the virtual world that can be easily traced back to us. Social media portals, “free” inbox services are vying with each other to get to know us- what we like, who we speak to, what we wear, what we looked for online, what we might be eyeing.

Sure, we get customised experience for the users, but do we really need to be hounded with offers of gym memberships for having posted our new year resolutions on Facebook?

My swimsuit buying experience( or should we say the anti-buying experience) shows how even a wish can be turned into data and linked from app to account.

Many of us are still unaware of the fact that the smartphones and devices we so readily flaunt know more about us than anyone in our lives. They track our everyday activities, our shopping preferences, even tracks our movements and presence.  A friend from work was surprised when Facebook threw up a suggestion saying there are 20 other friends in the vicinity, would you want us to notify them?

Many researchers across the world are conducting studies which yield patterns showing increased levels of privacy compromise for mere convenience.

A recent survey by the Business Intelligence shows that 55% of the 2000 UK participants have agreed to have shared their password and credentials with family and friends, 63% of them have not bothered to reset after sharing. What was to happen to this data if these relationships were to unravel?

The plethora of digital assistants –  Google’s Now, Microsoft’s Cortana and of course Apple’s Siri – bring in an element of order to our tenuous work-life balance. But, they only bringing us these tantalising options at the cost of our privacy.

These assistant Softwares or services come backed with the hardware. Companies invest millions of dollars into these assistant  “free” services in exchange for every minuscule information, personal data, transaction details, appointments, alerts, check-ins, search history from the various devices, keywords of your mail search to even some sass and personality spill can be a potential danger of being exposed.

Be wary the next time you ask Siri to search the internet for you!

It is a challenge to live without a digital footprint. Technologies like  Internet of Things that promise to change the lives of billions of people have the power to know your heart rate to the song you want to play when you want a little peppiness. These ‘convenience’ of wearable devices, USBs and portable gadgets at lower costs comes with the risk of people storing more sensitive data on these gadgets with a higher risk of data misuse and loss. The recent nuisance of “Silly worm”, the W32/SillyFD-AA program is evidence enough of this disturbing trend.

Globalisation and technological developments can easily exploit the human desire for saving money, instant gratification and getting more done in less with time and effort. We, the customers are in-turn complicit in creating a data goldmine that enables digital marketers and e-commerce portals to have a long lasting impact on our purchases and preferences.

If Hansel and Gretel were to live now, they’re more likely find their way back home without having to mark the path with breadcrumbs.

Every choice for convenience seems to push the privilege of privacy to the corner inevitable.

The private question on everyone’s mind is  – Does privacy even exist, anymore, for real?

AUTHOR: Chandrika Venkatesh
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