Beware of ‘digital dark age’! Here’s how to save your photos, videos and other data | How-to

Beware of ‘digital dark age’! Here’s how to save your photos, videos and other data

  • We are living in a “digital dark age”. If Instagram or Internet disappeared, would you be able to access your photos, videos and other data?

By:PTI
| Updated on: Feb 04 2024, 09:46 IST
Cyber crime skyrocketed in 2022! In 2023, here is how to save your gadgets
digital dark age
1/7 As people have become more tech-savvy and started taking full advantage of the internet, the cases of cyber crime have also increased. Registration of cyber offences, including online frauds under the pretext of offering jobs, gifts etc. and payment of electricity bills, rose by 63.7 per cent to 4,718 in 2022 compared to 2,883 cases in 2021, according to the Mumbai Crime Report. Cyber crime cases in 2022 rose by 112 per cent compared to 2,225 cases registered during the pre-COVID period in 2019, according to a report by PTI. (REUTERS)
digital dark age
2/7 Post the COVID pandemic, crimes such as part-time job fraud, cheating in the name of cryptocurrency investment, insurance fraud, sextortion, and electricity bill fraud have risen, as per the report released. In 2022, a total of 2,170 cheating cases, including frauds like customs, gift, purchase, job, insurance, etc, were registered. In order to ditch criminals and stay safe online, here are 5 steps you can adopt. (AP)
digital dark age
3/7 Keep strong password: You need to keep a strong password that no one can crack. You are advised to avoid keeping your birthday, phone number, astro sign, among others as your password, as it can be easily guessed. Also, using a password manager will help you store and use a strong, unique password for each site you log into. (Reuters)
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4/7 Use the browser with Enhanced security protection: To be even more secure while browsing the web, turn on Enhanced Safe Browsing protection. If you are a Chrome user, you can switch it on in your Chrome settings. It substantially increases protection from dangerous websites and downloads by sharing real-time data with Safe Browsing. (Unsplash)
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5/7 Use 2-step verification: Two-factor authentication can use your phone to add an extra step to verify that it's you when you sign in. Signing in with both a password and a second step on your phone protects against password-stealing scams. (Pixabay)
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6/7 Avoid clicking on links provided in suspicious mails: Several fraudsters use fake email id to woo people by offering them false job offers, rewards, etc., and ask them to click on certain links. If you click on those links you can end up losing your hard earned money. Also check if the email id is authentic or not before providing any personal details. (Pixabay)
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7/7 Install antivirus: You also need to install antivirus in your system to stay protected for viruses and other cyber attacks.  (Pixabay)
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We are living in a “digital dark age”, a term popularised by information and communication specialist Terry Kuny. (Representative image) (AFP)

If you have grown up with social media, chances are you have taken more photos in the last couple of decades than you will ever remember. When mobile phones suddenly became cameras too, social media turned into a community photo album, with memories kept online forever and ever. Or so we thought. In 2019, MySpace lost 12 years' worth of music and photos, affecting over 14 million artists and 50 million tracks. If Instagram or the entire Internet suddenly disappeared, would you be able to access your precious memories?

We are living in a “digital dark age”, a term popularised by information and communication specialist Terry Kuny. Back in 1997, Kuny warned we were “moving into an era where much of what we know today, much of what is coded and written electronically, will be lost forever”.

He argued that, like monks from the Middle Ages who preserved books (and therefore, knowledge), we must preserve digital objects of today. Otherwise, future generations will be left with gaps in knowledge about our present-day lives.

People often say the “internet is forever”, but digital artefacts like photos and videos are actually unstable and non-permanent. You've likely encountered “linkrot”, when a URL to an important source leads to a now-deleted webpage. Hardware becomes obsolete, degraded and upgraded over time. Bit-rot (also called data or file rot, or data degradation) means we may have no physical means to access our past data.

Many people already find it hard to use technology and software that has reached its “end of life”. With the lack of backwards compatibility (when updated technology or software cannot support older versions), how will future generations access old data stored in obsolete formats?

We are also seeing issues emerge related to ownership of data, particularly when controlled by private corporations. Families have faced legal difficulties accessing the social media accounts of deceased loved ones. Similarly, if Spotify or Netflix shut down tomorrow, you wouldn't own any of the songs or films you stream on a daily basis.

A digital life

For a number of reasons, you may not even notice that we are in the middle of a new digital dark age.

From Google smart homes to contact-tracing technology, life is increasingly digital. Without an app, internet or social media account, it is difficult to verify your identity and gain access to data – even your own. Many people don't even consider non-digital means of recording, proving and living their existence.

With Instagram stories disappearing after 24 hours, and Snapchat and WhatsApp's vanishing messages features, you are probably used to data disappearing instantly.

With the growing need for environmental sustainability, turning to digital formats seems like the responsible solution to reducing our carbon footprint – though have you thought about the e-waste you produce?

Even with data protection laws now giving people the right to have personal data erased, many may not want their data to be preserved forever. Identity theft can occur with social media content that reveals biometric or other personal data. And that's not to mention cyberstalking, cyberbullying, the distribution of “revenge porn” and online grooming.

But despite all these very understandable concerns, there are still good reasons to think seriously about how you preserve the digital artefacts and data that are most important to you.

Protecting and preserving your old data

If you misplaced your phone, could you remember important phone numbers, or navigate streets when lost? If the answer is no, you may want to think more carefully about data preservation.

This is something we should all think about, and not just leave it to digital archivists and preservationists. When organised efforts are made to preserve data, who decides what should be preserved can become a political issue as much as a technological one.

When it comes to your own digital memories, there are services you can use and steps you can take to preserve data from being lost to history:

Keep multiple copies (and formats) of important data across different devices: SD cards, USB thumb drives, DVD/Blu-ray discs, external hard drives and NAS (network attached storage) boxes. This has to be coupled with ensuring you regularly migrate important data to the newest device or format (remember, avoid bit-rot).

Try (re)discovering analogue trends – board games alongside video games, vinyl records over streaming music, or celebrate the resurgence of Polaroid cameras. Many services are available to convert digital photos into printed photos, albums and physical artwork.

Embrace the ethos of the FAIR principles) – findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable– so that you and others can locate and access any important data you wish to preserve easily.

Finally, if you come across a rotten link or other missing data, you can explore data preservation initiatives like the Long Now Foundation's publicly accessible Rosetta Project or the Internet Archive, a non-profit library of free digital books, movies, software, music and websites. 

(The Conversation)

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First Published Date: 04 Feb, 09:46 IST
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