Zeynep Tufekci: “Think You’re Discreet Online? Think Again”

April 23, 2019

In her latest New York Times op-ed, UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) Associate Professor Zeynep Tufekci discussed the pros and cons of data inference, how such tool can aid public health, but also impede an individual’s ability to get a job, insurance, housing, and more.

Tufekci outlined two examples: Facebook’s ability to infer its users’ mood based on their posts, and China’s attempt to thwart threats to Communist rule using biometric data of its citizens. 

“Computer algorithms and network analyses can now infer, with a sufficiently high degree of accuracy, a wide range of things about you that you may have never disclosed,” Tufekci said. “Used for honorable purposes, computational inference can be a wonderful thing.”

Few people realize how much can be revealed to those with the right computational power, whether people have voluntarily shared information online or not. The implications of these tools in the future is very worrisome.

“There is no longer such a thing as individually “opting out” of our privacy-compromised world,” Tufekci said.

Read the full op-ed here.