Wednesday, September 28, 2011

FuturICT's Crisis Observatory 5b: A New Deal On Privacy

The dangers and blessings of a connected world?  A "New Deal" on privacy is needed.

Where Do We Go From Here?
With this embrace of technology must also come an almost fanatical insistence on boundaries on who and how this massive amount of personal information about us can be used.
It is obvious to us, that we as a society are in a quandary.  We have three choices.  One is to do little about the changes that technology is creating in our lives.  Allow the encroaching forces of corporations, and government to continue to remove our freedoms and privacy step by step, until either a violent revolution will occur or we become virtual slaves.

The second choice is retreat.  For this to happen, there would have to be a massive luddite revolt against technology which would simply eliminate the technology threat by eliminating most technologies, and perhaps revert back to a pre-computer age.  This is unthinkable.  All people are now so dependent on technology in so many invisible ways, that without them most could not function.  Some may say that humans managed in the past without computers and this is true.  But what this statement fails to realize is that we are evolving socially.  We are different people from our ancestors.  We have a different mindset, different values, different expectations and no doubt are even physically different.  Our brains, as plasticity studies have shown, have rewired themselves due to our exposure to technology.

The third option is to embrace technology, but not in a naive manner.  With this embrace of technology must also come an almost fanatical insistence on boundaries on who and how this massive amount of personal information about us can be used.  This "New Deal" on privacy must encoded in law.  It must be formulated, in the United States, as universally understood part of the bill of rights in the American Constitution.  It must be taught to Americans of all ages.  For the rest of the world, it must be legislated and guarded.  It is quite gratifying to us, that most of the scientists who are involved in these technologies are aware of the problem.  None of them want to live in Orwellian society.  All of them understand the potential dangers.  Dr. Helbing, spearheading FuturICT states,
FuturICT has a strong ethical mission and motivation. The methods and tools the project plans to create are intended to benefit humanity, not just a few stakeholders. FuturICT wants to provide an open data, simulation, exploration and participatory platform for everyone. This platform is thought to establish a new public good on which services of all kinds can be built, i.e. it will support both commercial and non-profit activities. To prevent misuse of the platform and enable reliable high-quality services, the platform will be built on principles of transparency, accountability, reputation, and self-regulation.
This seems to us, to be the key ingredients in a new deal of privacy.  It is open, transparent, accountable and open to everyone.  Helbing continues,
FuturICT is not interested in tracking individual behavior or gathering data on individual actions. Its aim is to understand the macroscopic and statistical interdependencies within the highly complex systems on which we all depend.
Will users have control over their data with this initiative?  Yes.  How is not fully explained.
The FuturICT project will have a strong research focus on ethical issues, and is committed to informing the public about the use of socio-economic data. For example, FuturICT will promote the development of a Web of Trust and of privacy-respecting data mining technologies that give users control over their data. It will take the strongest possible measures to prevent and counter-act the misuse of data and the Internet.

We as humans like to share.  We are by nature open as we were at birth.  It is only society that teaches us to be secretive.  What people do not wish is to be ostracized or manipulated by the information they share.  They want the control of the information.  They want the right to delete it or limit it.  In the United States the American Library Association has instituted privacy week. Also Data Privacy Day is being called for January 28, 2012.  This same organization also has a vast repository of resources on the issue of privacy.

We include a playlist of videos that deal with this vital issue of privacy.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

For a darker view of privacy and where it might lead, we present this video, which, since its first posting has received 698,434 page views.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

Nevertheless, despite all the potential dangers, we must forge ahead into this new digital world.  It is naive to think that the clock can be turned back.  The only (in light of the alternatives) and best thing to do is educate ourselves and get involved in the process.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the share! Very useful info!