digital detox, tech manifesto

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Baratunde Thurston's Medium piece what Google and Facebook know about you explains "How to do a data detox, in a zillion easy steps:"

I focused on the platforms I use most--Google and Facebook--as well as my my favorite note-taking app, Evernote. Like many people who have taken a sudden interest in their digital privacy, I was startled by what I learned. [...]

I'm someone who's been online since the mid-1990s. I've worked in the digital media and advertising businesses. I understand that our data is being collected to make products more useful to us and to make us more useful to advertisers. But seeing the surveillance economy all in one place made that truth more stark--and more unsettling.

"I finished my Google-data detox with a mixture of satisfaction and wariness," he writes, but "Google was entry-level detox. When I moved on to Facebook, I pretty much lost it:"

I was briefly amused by the discrepancies between the real me and the picture painted by Facebook, but it also prompted a question: How accurate do I want my data portrait to be if it is being used primarily to encourage me to part with my time, attention, and money? I toyed with the idea of whether or not, in the interest of my own privacy, I ought to obscure the real me with misleading signals.

What if I started liking Facebook pages about guns and engaging with content about white nationalism (or, worse, electronic dance music)? Of course, if I did that, I would also hinder the platform's ability to provide value by knowing as much as it does about me.

Thurston offers some interesting questions:

Did I want to spend my time and energy making Facebook less efficient and more chaotic for myself? Is that what it would take to be truly free--to inconvenience myself by pretending to be someone else?

"A New Tech Manifesto," also by Thurston, is subtitled "Six demands, from a citizen to Big Tech:"

Here is my first draft proposal for restoring some balance and trust between the tech companies that are shaping the future and we the people.

1. Offer Real Transparency Around Data Collection and Usage

2. Change Data Defaults from Open to Closed

3. Respect Our Right to Our Own Data

4. Diversify Who's At the Table

The power of technology to shape the future of literally everything means that the people in the drivers' seats--the entrepreneurs, engineers, and investors--wield incredible power. But being a good software engineer does not qualify you to engineer society, politics, economics, and beyond. Not alone.

Technology is created by people, and people have blind spots and biases. That's why tech companies need more diversity at the table -- people who think differently about ethics, privacy, and tech's ability to facilitate abuse.

5. Implement New Laws and New Rules

6. Enable Users to Collect and Analyze Our Own Data

Imagine if we used our collective data to help us be better neighbors, partners, artists, citizens, and humans, rather than just better products to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Imagine, too, if we could hold technology companies accountable by demanding that they share power more equitably with the people who use and enable their products and services.

Imagine it. Now let's go build it.

Thurston gives us plenty to think about...

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on June 7, 2018 10:58 AM.

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