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Selling Data or Selling Access? Privacy in the modern world

We live in a world where we order online, and our device can quite easily feedback to us our likes, dislikes, and buying history.  Allowing this to happen, is an unhealthy state of living. Expect this to happen on a much larger scale during the holiday season. Such as now for Muslims as they celebrate Ramadan, a whole month of fasting and ending it with Eid Festivities. 

Sometime in history (I say this tongue in cheek as I am not young anymore), the way we shared details about our lives was most commonly through the community phone or social gatherings.  Never in a million years would we have been able to accurately predict that our online status would become one of the main ways we can share information about birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, pregnancies and lunch menus with many of our contacts at the same time.  A side story here; my first experience of misunderstandings on social media, when Equal Entrance creator and I used to live in the same neighbourhood, and she had her first son, Hassan, I posted a picture of my daughter Safiya, and her son playing.  The caption was ‘cute pair bonding.’  Although I had not been explicit that it was Ayesha’s son, this was a mistake -  I immediately got messages congratulating me, and asking why I hadn’t mentioned my pregnancy.  Strangely, even people who’d seen me recently and knew I was not expecting saw the photo and jumped the gun.  I had spread my first ‘fake news’.  

I often wonder why we’re sharing with more people online than we would offline.  We use platforms every day that are not designed to be about privacy.  Since 2018 Facebook has been under fire on its use of stored information.  However, years before that, our data, our demographics were being sold.  How do you think your social media knows you so well?  And remains free to use? Three years later, in 2021, we’re still hearing about it, including WhatsApp.  Now it’s common knowledge that people and their information is being used as ‘data mines,’ and we generate money for the company when we use it.  Often we agree to this unknowingly, unless we actually read the long, wordy privacy agreement.  However, many of us are not ready to delete WhatsApp! So we click “agree” anyway.  

I’m not saying we shut ourselves off to the online world, but certainly not sell ourselves online, and let it overcome and become addictive. Psychologically, self-esteem comes internally, as external approval is fickle and unstable.  We have alarm systems for our houses, vitamins for our immune system when harmful agents try to enter and cause havoc, so online protection is also a logical step, if we are careful.  It’s similar to if a dodgy car salesman was trying to sell us a defective car, or a spam caller was trying to rob our money, would we let this happen?  The Holy founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Comunity, Messiah Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote that would a mother wilfully let her child go towards harm no matter how much they wanted it?  Of course not.  With the right tools we can navigate our whole selves in our online life and stay in control, not become victims.  We can shape what we are online, not the big corporate, wealthy companies that feed immorally off human foibles, need for validation, and social desires.  

During the month of Ramadan we are encouraged to keep a self check of our behavior, and make improvements.  We also serve humanity more.  Some of these improvements we make privately to gain nearness to our Creator.  In this respect, a bit of privacy goes a long way to increase our self respect and ego-less reflection.  After all, if you can't be real to yourself how can you be truly honest on social media?

Rabia Salim is a mother of 3 and a Speech Therapist for pediatrics, school and college aged children with a range of special education needs. In her spare time she volunteers, cooks, plays sports travels and reads. She lives with her family in the outskirts of London, England. Follow Rabia on twitter @Rabiawsst


  • Very well written, thought provoking. Good initiative to analyze our thoughts and actions.

    Salma Khan
  • Wow. Beautiful writing Rabia. Keep it up my dear. 👍🏼

    Munira Khan

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