Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim, the documentary filmmakers behind Netflix’s The Great Hack, understand better than most the ways in which our personal data is being mined, weaponised and used against us.
Though their film started out as an exploration of the Sony hack in 2014, which saw a cyberterrorist group release confidential data obtained from the company’s computer infrastructure, this soon gave way to the retelling of a story that would rock the world.
The duo were in touch with Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie a year before his pink-haired portrait was splashed across the front of page of the newspapers in an interview revealing how the group had used data mined from Facebook accounts to target political propaganda.
Despite this, both filmmakers still use Facebook and other social media sites. Read on for their tips on protecting your data…
Can I use the internet without giving my personal information away?
In short: no.
“This is something you’re participating in almost all of your waking life in the connected world,” Amer says. “When you watch something, when you scroll, go on an Uber ride or do anything that’s related to that, you’re giving up data for services.”
He continues: “I think the more we have awareness about that, the more we can balance the see-saw because right now it’s quite skewed. We just give up our data and have no idea what happens to it or how it affects us. We just need to demand more.”
How can I protect my data?
Removing yourself from social media is not necessarily the answer.
“I feel like that’s a false choice that we should have to choose between connecting with our friends and giving up all of our privacy,” Noujaim says. “So, you know, our hope is that we stay on and the platforms change. I have posted less personal things I’d say on Facebook but I have not given up my Facebook account.”
Short of reading the terms and conditions on every website you visit, take a look at your personal settings on the ones that matter. Most importantly, the ones where you regularly share sensitive information. “Check your privacy settings on Facebook,” she says. “But the bigger question comes down to electing leaders that take data privacy transparency seriously that are holding Facebook and these other tech platforms to task.”
Amer adds that we can protect ourselves by demanding that our elected officials take data rights seriously, and by directing our attention towards organisations that practise “good data hygiene”.
“I think if we can shine lights on how data use and misuse is happening all around us, we can correct it,” he says. “It’s going to take all of us to change the way we consent to our data being used and reward those companies that follow data good hygiene and reprimand those that don’t.”