Monday, 23 september 2019 | Redacción CEU
New advances always generate uncertainty. Change is not easy, especially when we experiment it at full speed. However, the technological development and its dizzying pace are leaving a footprint in the world we live in. On the one hand, we enjoy numerous benefits: vacuum cleaners work alone without any human control, kitchen robots prepare meals with little support, our smartphones’ apps inform us of where our cars are parked, we raise our voice at home and a virtual assistant meets our demands,... On the other hand, this new distribution of tasks raises red flags: What does it mean to delegate more and more activities to AI? Where are the limits of this technological revolution? Do we really understand how this type of technology works? Do virtual assistants work as a worldwide spy network? Will robots end up stealing our jobs?
When talking about the future of technology, all our concerns are raised. For decades, the world of fiction has been warning us of the apocalyptic future that could await us: in books like A happy world, movies like Matrix or series like Black Mirror, to name a few. In fact, some of these productions have not been entirely wrong. While we are far from living in a dystopia of epic proportions, it is true that, when technology advances, ethics must be more present than ever. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing some important areas of our freedom.
Who cares about what I do?
One of our biggest concerns in the new digital era is the preservation of privacy and security. Nobody likes to think that someone is watching, listening or recording what they are doing at any moment. On the other hand, there are many who think: Who can be interested in what I do? I have nothing to hide! Although our data seems harmless or insubstantial, it is really valuable. Those who have access to it may know what we need, what expectations we have, how we behave, who we prefer to be with, who we plan to vote for and, even, what we are most afraid of. That is the reason why it is reasonable to ask ourselves: To what extent is someone making use of our data?
Last year, Facebook was involved in one of the largest investigations which has ever been conducted into a technology company. The case, which was initiated as a result of the misuse of the data of 87 million users by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, led Zuckerberg’s company to accept a commitment of transparency and a historic fine of five billion dollars. On top of that, the company's reputation has been questioned recently again, due to an alleged new security breach that might have affected 419 million of its users' number phones.
Facebook is not the only tech corporation that has attracted the attention of the press because of privacy problems. Last month, Apple apologized for listening in to the conversations of its virtual assistant "Siri". The firm did it after it came to light that a team of external workers were responsible for listening and analyzing users’ conversations. The company has formally announced the cessation of this practice and the establishment of new standards for its virtual assistant. In addition, Google and Amazon have also initiated changes to their privacy policies due to similar cases.