Your Personal Data and the dark side of Technology

Your Personal Data and the dark side of Technology |  Big tech firms disregarding peoples’ personal privacy

Data abuse has “darkened” technology’s potential.

.. That’s the warning given by the European Union’s Competition Commissioner.

During an interview on BBC’s Today programme, Margrethe Vestager criticised tech giants for misusing data and disrespecting citizens’ rights.

EU rules governing data use provides “some protection”, she said. However, Ms. Vestager added that the need for a more concerted effort was becoming pressing.

“Over these 12 months our relationship with tech has both been darker and more muddy because it becomes increasingly clear that all the bright and shiny positive potentials of tech are at the risk of being darkened by forced misuse of data, manipulation, supervision, no respect of the citizen, no respect of individual rights,” she told Martha Lane Fox who carried out the interview.

“There is an increasing awareness of the fact that we really need to do something and to do that together.”

Your personal data: Privacy laws

The data scandals during 2018 have included:

  • Facebook having to apologise to 87 million users for allowing their details tobe harvested. Many of these were obtained by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica

  • Facebook, YouTube and Twitter facing up to evidence that their platforms had been used by Russia, to manipulate voters in the West

  • Google being fined a record €4.3bn ($5bn; £3.9bn) for using Android to illegally defend its dominance in search

The tech giant’s actions had changed views about how the industry could influence people and society, said Ms Vestager.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in May 2018, gave people new privacy rights and greater control over their data, but more work is needed, said Ms Vestager.

The European Commission is also looking into Amazon’s business practices

The civil service is talking about ways to force tech companies to be more “transparent” about what they do with data captured from people’s uploads, shares and views, she added.

However, Ms Vestager described herself as being positive about the future.

One thing I do hope over the next 10 years is that we get a much more… transparent way of dealing with data and giving access to data. I tend to be an optimist by choice. I think it’s a moral obligation because pessimists don’t seem to get anything done.

Ms Vestager cautioned that failure to act could lead to situation whereby one or two huge firms dominate use of our personal data.

Baroness Lane-Fox asked if this meant that the commission would take concrete steps to break up monopolies or tackle markets where dominance stifled competition.

Commissioner Vestager responded that while dismantling companies had served Brussels well in the past, the speed at which changes occurred in the tech sector made it a less appropriate response.

Instead, she said, the commission might look at how larger firms got access to data and resources in a bid to limit their power.

Regarding Brexit, Ms Vestager noted that European competition authorities had become stronger by working together.

But she added that the UK had “clever skilled people with a very strong dedication” to making sure the market served consumers

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