1. Americans are unhappy with sharing data.  

A new study (Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania) indicates 70 percent of Americans are discontent with the social media trade sale: ‘I give you my services for free; in exchange you give me your private data for free”. 
Source: NYTimes: Sharing Data, but Not Happily

2. Big Data, benefits and malpractice’
Big data’ are pivotal to evolve civilisation, if used to enhance longevity, fight poverty, ease everyday life, develop automated solutions (robots) of once burdensome work.  
’Big data’ can be misused for purposes which are not in the individual’s and civil society’s best interest.  

For conceptual clarification: 
”Big data refers to the large amounts of information that has become accessible thanks to services like the Internet. Big Data is useful only if its information content is evaluated for accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. What used to be called knowledge based enterprises are designed to transform unevaluated information (raw data) into information whose accuracy and authenticity are verified (knowledge). It is still a matter of manipulating information to make it usable.“ 
(Citation Richard Wright).

3. Two complementary roles of the individual 

The individuals are the mines 
Private data embody the individual’s experiences, behavior, customs, wishes, dreams, anticipation of their future lives. They are valuable from the start and evolve with every action of the individual, adjust fluently and change continuously over time. Therefore these individual’s data are not just ’raw’, they should be evaluated as preprocessed. 

The individuals are the audience 
The processing of raw and preprocessed data to useful data for science, research & development, predictable marketing etc. are driven by an anticipated outcome to improve civilization. Among others, they are focused at the individuals as market participants to buy new products, services.
Therefore individuals are both, subjects and objects of mining and processing their private data.
4. Why privacy and the use of individual data matter to individuality

Individuals are the indisputable owners of their private data. 

Currently, as originator and owners, individuals have no or only limited influence how these data will be used, if for their benefit or for their harm. Individuals have figuratively no influence if their private data become a blessing or a curse for themselves, the civil society, mankind in general. 
Individuals have no influence of the use of their data in media, social media, politics, info processing (banking, insurance), dissemination (telephone, broadcasting), Internet of things, marketing, research & development for new or improved products and services. 

Consequences to be considered from the angle of the individual: 

The double role as subjects and objects, originator and beneficiaries requires a specific responsibility of individuals in respect of the use of their private data, which may have effects on others too. 

As the Annenberg study shows, the majority of individuals is “not happy“ with the uncontrollable use of their data. This might improve with enhanced privacy rules, but seems not to be enough. Individuals should decide themselves, if when and how their data are to be used or not to be used for data mining. The retroactivity of processed data on the individuals themselves, the influence on their individuality, is an issue to be monitored and analyzed over time. 

The free deliberate development of individuality is compromised if individuals cannot control their own lives to the full possible extent, i. e. here the use of their private data.


As predictable the different positions harden, the matadors dig their feet into the ground. The Obama administration sides very clearly with the FBI, questioning the demands of the civil society. Apple, as leader of the tech pack, defends its rights with both tooth and nail against the claims of the administration.

But the standoff is less entertaining as it sounds. It reflects the ongoing tries to balance the rights of the civil society for privacy with the needs of the state to fulfil its purpose. About 50 years ago, the question would have been decided very easily in favour of the governmental claims. The stance of the tech companies reflects an evolution in the understanding of privacy. In this meanwhile fierce fight, the pendulum currently leans more to the civil society, backed by the customers of the techies which as citizens are not comfortable with the current situation. The latest exchange of naughty arguments was about the FBI”s assertions, Apple would measure differently while giving China access to iPhone data. This assertion was countered by the iPhone producer, it had agreed to store date from its Chinese customers on Chinese soil, but “never made user data, whether stored on the iPhone or in iCloud, more technologically accessible to any country’s government”.

All this sounds like a grudge match and misses the point: What is the best solution possible to meet both justified demands? A new dynamic equilibrium has to be figured out. This is not the task of some lonely decisions by courts and will take discourses, studies and last not least, new technologies which can fulfil both claims: the government’s requirements to do its job and the civil society’s demands for privacy.


The sitting president of the United States makes his case against the Apple Initiative in respect of privacy. As statist-in-chief he choses one of the most thrilling tech audiences at SXSW to deploy his message to the stunned civil society: for the sake of your individual security and national security, the government has to intrude your privacy, which we don’t like, but we have to, so sorry.

From distant Europe, effectively not so distant with the Internet, I wonder. Is Mr. O addressing the same nation which conquered the most dangerous aggression against humanity ever? Which was late in the race to space but reached the moon first, inspired by a different president who accepted the challenge and ignited an until then unknown endeavour? The same nation who still gives the GPS for free to the world, saving millions of tons of carbon dioxide daily? Which unleashed with the Internet the most efficient societal, economical disruption since the invention of the printing press? With a unique technological, entrepreneurial ecosystem, spreading outstanding ideas over the world, igniting hundreds of thousands of young entrepreneurs to make a difference, to change the world, conquering poverty with sharing economy, crowdsourcing, facilitating everyday life with artificial intelligence? This advanced, unique civil society should not be able to solve 21st century challenges with a developed 21st century mindset and 21st century technology?

Come on Mr. O, please sing me a different song!


The blue chips of American Technology Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft are united to ward their customers from the authorities’ grip on privacy.

The goverment as well as some lawmakers argue, there is no alternative to the intrusion in citizen’s privacy with the purpose to prevent crimes and possible new terrorist events. That’s a point and despite all rhetorics against Apple, we should trust in the sincerity of the argument. On the other side, citizens fear, this argument is not half of the truth. The other half: the state systemically wants to have a foot in the privacy sphere of every citizen.
A mutual suspicion, mistrust. The comprehensible tensions of this confrontation are positive, demand all participants to work on viable solutions. The fight is not about winning or losing, it is to face the authorities with the civil society’s justified interests. In other words: there must be solutions for national security which do not intrude privacy.

A challenge with all involved technological, political, juridical aspects. Which finally will lead to security on the one side, privacy on the other side. No one should say from the beginning: ‘impossible’.

We should trust in a collaborative society which invents an automated car, declares the computer as a driver, to be able to develop appropriate solutions for this sensible issue too.
The refusal of the tech giants on behalf of their customers is the first step to ignite a “moonshot” in this respect. All in all, a victory for the civil society. This move could have influence far beyond the US territory, a role model for other democracies facing the same issue.