Tag Archives: surveillance capitalism

Women looking at security cameras by Matthew Henry

Why 2019 will be the year of ethical tech

For the last decade or so, we’ve been hearing a lot about big data.

“Data is the new oil!” said Clive Humby in 2006, after working on the Tesco Clubcard. And everyone agreed that data was a thing, and set off to find out how to make the most of it.

But the way in which our data is being harvested isn’t good. Because of course, since the early days of Tesco Clubcard, it always was our data that was the raw material: our decisions, our habits, our likes, the type of people we were and who we lived with.

These “insights” are now being used to drive psychological behaviour and we’re no longer talking just about marketing. We’ve moved beyond those clearly defined display ads. And way beyond which type of supermarket deal we might be interested in.

Politics and dark patterns

In her TED talk, sociologist Zeynep Tufekci says we’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads (she’s a great speaker, well worth 20 minutes). Technologist Jaron Larnier refers to the big tech companies as “Siren servers” – they use beautiful things to mask sinister motives. Last October, Apple CEO Tim Cook warned EU regulators that personal data is being weaponised against users, calling for tougher privacy laws in both Europe and the US.

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Design Jam at Facebook London

Big Brother is watching us – he wants to play nicely

Andy Warhol said that in the future we will all be famous for 15 minutes. George Orwell predicted constant surveillance. Maybe it’s only with hindsight that we see these two things as inextricably linked: our “fame” always comes at a price.

Online social networks offer us free connectivity and the ability to broadcast edited versions of our lives. In exchange, we give them our data. Trouble is, the details of this contract have never been clearly articulated or explained, much less negotiated.

Last week I went to Facebook’s new office in London for a Design Jam. The Design Jams are open innovation – a series of hackathons to help Facebook users better understand, improve and navigate the legal complexities of its website.

Facebook is understandably concerned that it may be losing younger users and that hours spent on the platform are declining. Last week’s event focused on data transparency for young people.

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