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Your face is a weapon

What is the most memorable year of your life?

The day you got married ? or the day your child was born ?
Mine was 2001.
28 August 2001, to be exact. I remember it like it was yesterday. 

Sitting next to my dad in his car, daydreaming, as he was driving to the US embassy in Damascus, Syria. 

I was daydreaming about watching the Super Bowl in Florida . Not the fact that im going to see my mom, for the first time in 10 years. 

We reached the embassy, and waited for our turn to submit the application.
The US embassy officer flipped through file and was checking on his list to see if we had all the requirements.

He looked at me and asked me: “Why are you going to the US ?” I said, my parents got divorced 10 years ago and I’m going to visit my mom. 

“Where were you born?”
I said in Kuwait.

Then he looked to my dad and asked him,  “Where is his birth certificate?”

My dad gave an answer that today defines me as The Invisible Man.

He said:

“My son was born in Kuwait, and during the Gulf war in 1990, the birth registries were burned. We fled to Lebanon and lost the copies as well. But luckily when he was born, we issued a Syrian passport directly for him and there it is written that he was born in Kuwait.”

The officer advised my dad to get an official statement of the story and come back on September 13 for a second interview.

I thought the number 13 is a sign of bad luck.
Little did I know what Sept 11 / 2001 would change in the world. 

Not only tighter airport security, more aggressive policies, but no visa for me to go to the Super Bowl. 

The devastating attacks of 9/11 created a powerful long lasting ripple effect in the lives of billions of people, risking mine and yours my dear readers. 

Collecting, Sharing , and Analyzing data among public and private sector became a priority. Since that day numerous Acts, Laws, and even agencies were created to invade our privacy and way of life in the name of combating terrorism. 

The effects are clearly visible in airports, streets, and hands of people.

Cameras and Algorithms, creating mountains and trails of data. 

The lack of interoperability and slow exchange of data among government agencies was the new threat to the US, and no more the Cold War. 

You might say, why is it a risk ? We have nothing to hide, they can have my data! 

In fact millions in the Netherlands said we have nothing to hide, in a recent referendum

We share our pictures, passport copies, driver license extensively making it an easy target for bad actors, in the minimum ending up as victims of credit card hacks and scams. 

More scarier is the Former CIA director, Michael Hayden, clearly saying“We kill people based on metadata.”

In a statement to show that metadata from your phone, camera, laptop can provide a much more intimate picture of who you are and connections you have, than knowing the content of conversation itself. 

So how do we protect ourselves? And What role you can play? 

  • Acknowledging today that sharing is scaring and thinking twice of the information we share online. Think and Question The access we give to apps and services to reach our pictures, camera and microphone, and how is the access is used. According to google Android users are taking 93 million selfies a day since 2014. 
  • More policies and regulations directed on ethical use of biometrics and digital Identity technologies, and not giving backdoors to government agencies to spy on our conversations in the name of fighting criminality and terrorism. 
  • Book me as a speaker to learn how you can use your face as a weapon!  

Our privacy is a valuable asset in the age of digital economy and surveillance. We must not allow our privacy to be hijacked by technology. 

My name is Tey and i am the Invisible Man. 

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One Comment

  1. This is so true. We don’t really think through what we share and most of us naively believe that Governments won’t abuse our data, our ‘digital faces. 2001, a year that truly shaped our history as humanity. It has prefaced the era of Big Data that we take for granted today, and rarely is this for genuine good despite the rhetoric. Creative solutions are needed.

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