To tech or not to tech?

Like every topic about technology…The question today relates to Big data and if we should be happy about this tendency in technology. All these discussions are bringing to my mind a much bigger question, which I should admit I find a bit funny; is technology good or bad? Even if I am trying to avoid keeping a strong position in discussion and say that I am sure or not about a topic, with this question I can surely reply that this answer couldn’t be binary.

Technology in general, or Big Data sector specifically are tools, and as every tool they can be used for various scopes. So the real question to me is, how humanity is going to use the given tools rather than, if by nature the tools are good or bad.

On the one hand, we have something magical! The opportunity to analyse data easily, disregarding their type. We can analyse great amount of text in just some minutes by using only computational power and logic. We are able to analyse images with the help of Artificial Intelligence. A nice example for the use of Big Data could be a change on some elections’ procedure.

What’s happening in the world nowadays is a question that problematizes or frightens the most of the people. We usually are in a position to vote for the less bad choice, but how it would be if we had the opportunity to present our position with the help of written text in a such a formal procedure as elections are? This could possibly give us the feeling that our opinion really matters and that maybe something could possibly change in this world.

On the other hand, we have to fight with the great nightmare of privacy leaks. Now that almost any type of data provided by us can be analysed individually or in combination with other data, our digital and not only, privacy matters possibly much more than earlier. As Mikko Hypponen, a cyber-security expert mentioned in his talk, nowadays search engines know more about us than our families [1], an idea that in my opinion is not far from the truth. If we combine this idea with a question raised in the paper “Human-Data Interaction: The Human Face of the Data-Driven Society” [2] regarding the data that are consciously created by us or are inferred and created about us by others (eg. Activity tracker on our smartphone), we can possibly understand that an analysis of combined data provided consciously or not by us, could easily construct a story of our everyday life inside and outside of our home.

A lot of people will possibly say that they don’t have something to hide, so the elimination of privacy is possibly not a problem for them. But instead of trying to reply back, it would possibly be more productive to provide some food for thought using questions as: “Can we imagine what it would happen during protests in autumn of 1989 in Berlin, under the Stazi surveillance, if everyone had a phone in their pockets?” [3], or “Do we blindly trust any future government?” [1]

As humans we usually tend to forget easily the past, but even if superficially there is no obvious connection between the terms Democracy and Privacy, I want to insist on mentioning what Dilma Rousef said in relation to that, “If there is no right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore, there can be no effective democracy”. [1]

References:

[1] Mikko Hypponen. (2013). How the NSA betrayed the world’s trust-time to act. [Online Video]. 7 November 2013. Available from:

https://www.ted.com/talks/mikko_hypponen_how_the_nsa_betrayed_the_world_s_trust_time_to_act?referrer=playlist-the_dark_side_of_data&language=en#t-18390.[Accessed: 20 November 2018].

[2] Mortier, Richard & Haddadi, Hamed & Henderson, Tristan & McAuley, Derek & Crowcroft, Jon. (2014). Human-Data Interaction: The Human Face of the Data-Driven Society. SSRN Electronic Journal. 10.2139/ssrn.2508051.

[3] Malte Spitz. (2012). Your phone company is watching. [Online Video]. 24 July 2012. Available from: https://www.ted.com/talks/malte_spitz_your_phone_company_is_watching?referrer=playlist-the_dark_side_of_data. [Accessed: 19 November 2018].

 


Author: Tzanidou Alexandra

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