Albert Einstein once said, ‘When technology will surpass human
interaction, we will have a generation of idiots’. And boy, was he was right!
Everywhere, in every public place, one can see people sitting together, but very few seem to be
talking among themselves, anymore. In a way, we already have a generation of ‘walking
dead’ in our midst. Though all watch something of ‘interest’, yet none show any signs of catharsis. No emotions, no reactions, whatsoever. This is what social media is doing to a whole generation of people. But is social media the real evil?
I ask this question, because I usually get to see things from the ‘other side’, if you know what I mean. What I see has convinced me that an era of mass manipulation is upon us. Between hyper-partisan content on social media and soaps on OTTs, people are now being subjected to an unprecedented level of propaganda, albeit delivered ever so surgically to individual smartphones. Our elders used to travel, walk, talk, LIVE. Today, the satisfaction of faking it using digital technology seems enough, as the examination of any average social media profile t would reveal. That profile, simply put, can be as ‘successful’ as it wants to be.
Now, what is the point of this long preamble, you may ask? The point is, while social media may have engrossed an individual sufficiently, even to the point of turning said individual into a veritable zombie, it is the interests behind these platforms that are of interest to us. Social media is obviously a drug that draws you in due to its interactive nature where information is available in alluring chunks, albeit large enough to provide vicarious gratification. But that information is after all being provided by, yes you guessed it, All of YOU. As such, the collection of data to help improve your ‘experiences’ is nothing but an opaque cover for acquiring previously not so easy to gather details , to be used not just by capitalists, but obviously governments as well.
Anybody who has ever been a Cyber Minutemen would know that the only thing that
matters is information. Since ages, information has been the only reason for the
rise and fall of kingdoms. Today, we are in a world of constant information
warfare enabled by the digital age. The basic rules to run the world,
however, remain the same. But the patriotic hacker must choose a side. And though I am on the Indian one, I have no hesitation in quoting Sun Tzu, who said:
‘Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories’
Let’s be clear, apps are not developed to entertain you. Apps gather your data, sell it and make money or worse. An App usually ex-filtrates data like Location, Storage, Contacts, Call logs,
Browsing history, Camera, Device details, SMS etc. Smart phones nowadays also
collect your fingerprints and real time picture through face unlock features. These huge databases when put in an Artificial Intelligence system come out as refined data structures. This has obvious implications for India’s national security. Let us illustrate this with an example.
Say some day one’s favourite chat application (registered in a supposedly friendly country) decides to share its gathered data with ‘Angree Mother and 400 Maidens’ which is registered in an enemy country, just because it struck a good deal with the latter. Then the strategists of the enemy country (who have a certain influence on Angree) first geolocate our army cantonments. They then ask their new data partner i.e. our favourite chat app developer to find out active devices on the
coordinates of the cantonment. The app company finds out all the devices using
its application at the pinpointed location and the total number of devices active on
the given coordinates. Since, they already have the user data at the backend
not only through the app but also through their parent social media company, the
enemy can very likely gather specific details about the number of soldiers in the
cantonment, their names, ranks, photographs, fingerprints and what not. Making
it worse, the cluster of these marked devices can be monitored to further know
the movement of units, battalions or brigades, whenever it happens.
If you have read so far than surely you understand the peculiarity of this
The question is what can be done? Firstly, it is not possible to not use smart devices. That’s the way of the world now and we must live with it. But understanding the dangers can make us more
careful. Secondly, the only solution that would address the ex-filtration of data to
any country is indigenisation. We have some of the finest engineers, techies and data
scientists, even now. And I believe we can make the finest phones in the world, finest apps, finest mail
services, if we put our minds to it. Some may say that people will use only the famous
services in the market. I believe that when we are already 1.34 billion, we do not
need to follow what is famous, we can rather make things famous. Some friends ask
me as to what is the harm if a friendly country has our data? My answer to that
would be ‘Only strong nations have friends’. And we are strong only if we have our own cyber architecture along with the associated elements.
When other nations know us better than ourselves, then the game becomes way too skewed. If we want friends, we have to be strong. Using Indian applications and services will contain our data within our national boundaries. The best thing about data is that it is useless when it is not updated. Containing our data within the country will not only help improve our security, but will also
create more in-house jobs. The data that has already left our shores will be useless in some
months as all active users of a foreign app would have shifted to Indian apps. We
can vastly improve manufacturing of IT products and boost our research in
technology. Cyber warfare is all about data. The one who has the data wins the
The views expressed by the Author are his own. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Delhi Defence Review
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