Reliance NSE 4.95 % Industries stamped itself on India at its annual general meeting (AGM). It declared itself the country’s top company, largest exporter, highest taxpayer, fastest-growing mobile network operator, with plans to be its biggest broadband provider. Once this superfast broadband pipe, JioGigaFiber, is implemented, it will also become the biggest repository of users’ private data in the world’s largest democracy. That’s a proposition that’s as frightening as it’s spectacular, That’s a proposition that’s as frightening as it’s spectacular, as user information will vest with one private firm that’s too large to poke.

JioGigaFiber will pierce homes with the smart-home experience, making Jio a digital Jeeves of sorts. It will also connect retailers, and its own retail outlets to all stakeholders. In this Internet of Things (IoT) future, where machines, services, systems and goods connect seamlessly, Jio will become an Amazon on steroids, and more.

Reliance’s management has sold this expedient marvel, saying it will bring shared prosperity to Indians. That’s half the truth. Meanwhile, users will have unwittingly handed over immense power to the giant, which will only grow as usage increases. 

At smart homes, Jio will turn on lights, order groceries, monitor appointments, and find the best deals in town — in multiple regional languages. Jio will know inventory levels, how businesses are cooking their books, and whom they are selling to and how often. The datamining algorithms combined by AI, which will be Jio’s backbone, will know what’s cooking for dinner, how lonely spouses kill time, and how much money users have in the bank. 

Over time, it may be able to tell the miser from the spendthrift, the leftist from the centrist. It will know where you live and what time you go to bed. Eventually, Jio could end up knowing more about the users than the users themselves. 

In the new world order, those who control this data, control the world. Yuval Noah Harari, in his 2015 book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, argues, “The individual is becoming a tiny chip inside a giant system that nobody really understands… data religion now says that your every word and action is part of the great data flow, that the algorithms are constantly watching you.” 

Harari is no alarmist. As user data becomes more and more important, those who have data will become valuable not just to advertisers and businesses, but also to those who wish to influence choices and curb freedoms. 

We’ve already seen how data mined from Facebook users were given to Cambridge Analytica to allegedly influence the outcome of the US elections and Britain’s Brexit vote. 

This is still data-targeting at its nascent stages, not the kind of exponential leap expected from IoT. 

So, what happens when your private data is controlled by private companies like Google, Amazon and Reliance? Effectively, they will become more powerful than governments, as they will have access to information that, in its minutiae, can and will be useful for anything from surveillance and trends to predictive policing. Google can already tell fashion trends from the
plotting of crime just based on user search ( ‘Fashion Crimes: Trending-Term Exploitation on the Web’). 

This makes such companies an indispensable power broker as long as users allow them access to personal information. Typically, how countries use technology will be determined by cooperation — or the lack of it — between the government and firms that control the technology. 

The impact on users will depend on the moral consciousness of both, and the judiciary when challenged. 

India’s billion-plus people, at this stage, have very little say in this. And, currently, there are no laws to protect user data and privacy here. 

The burden is on the Justice Srikrishna Committee report on data privacy, which is to come out with recommendations soon. The committee needs to ensure the right to privacy remains a fundamental right — something Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) does well to enforce. 

Super-connectivity could be the tipping point. Without checks and balances, it could upend the rights and freedoms we mostly take for granted, and shift the power to unshakeable organisations.

Read more at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/internet/jiogigafiber-sold-on-jios-new-avatar-the-price-you-pay-could-be-too-heavy/articleshow/64942338.cms