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.