Starting some time in the middle of last week, much of the social media related news coverage has been dominated by the so called ‘positivity app’ Peeple that proposes to let people give ratings about other people, and the outright negative response it has elicited in the vast majority of people (including us). Since any such endeavor obviously steps into a massive “ethics minefield”, CaSMa was naturally attracted to looking into this a bit more.
This week Facebook launched its bid for capturing and building the market in personal digital assistant services (for now only available to select groups of people in San Francisco). Facebook’s ‘M‘ interacts with the user via the Facebook Messenger app, but as with the competitors Siri (Apple), Now (Google), Cortana (Microsoft) and Echo (Amazon), the serious work is done through cloud services.
Following a presentation about “Societal Responsibility in Internet business Innovation” I recently gave at the Responsible Innovation Conference 2015, a fellow attendee at the conference drew my attention to the NY Times “When Algorithms Discriminate”, from July 9th 2015. This article briefly summarized the results from a number of studies each of which exposed race, gender or other discriminatory biases in search engine results.
Many of the most well known internet platforms and apps such as Facebook, Wikipedia, Reddit, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc. are fundamentally dependent on user generated content. Without it, they have nothing to offer to attract or retain users. On the face of it, this would suggest that the balance of power between the companies running the platforms/apps and the users should skew towards the users.
What use would a digital bill of rights be?
The Liberal Democrats have been a lone voice among the parties calling for a digital bill of rights governing our growing use of the internet. But is it the right solution for the problem in hand?
Surveys suggest that the bill should pique the interest of at least a few floating voters, with almost three-quarters of British adults in one survey concerned over unauthorised access to their private information online.
It’s been a busy week in the world of digital rights. On April 11th the UK’s Liberal Democratic party decided to put digital rights on the election campaign agenda by launching a proposal for a Digital Bill of Rights. On April 15th, the Global Commission on Internet Governance released a statement titled “Towards a Social Compact for Digital Privacy and Security” in the run up to the 2015 Global Conference on Cyber Space in the Hague, which culminated with the launch of the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise.
On March 30th, Martha Lane Fox delivered the annual Richard Dimbleby Lecture on BBC with an eloquent and passionate call for the creation of a new civic institution charged with making the UK the “most digital nation on the plant”. The institution she envisaged, and provisionally named “Dot Everyone”, would boost the needs of the civic, public and non-commercial side of the internet while simultaneously providing the infrastructure, skills and training which private companies are desperately looking for.
On March 24th, 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) adopted a resolution to appoint a special rapporteur on the right to privacy, to be appointed in June. By choosing to adopt this resolution the UNHRC is raising the international recognition and protection for the right to privacy.
This week saw the launch of the Apple Watch, one more product in a growing number of “smart” sensor rich devices that promise to make life easier and better by monitoring user behaviour. Will the Apple Watch be a game changer among these devices? Technologically, the only really new sensor included in the watch that wasn’t already in smart phones appears to be the LED based heart rate sensor, which for some reason is receiving relatively little attention in the popular tech magazines. The Apple marketing machine, however, may prove to be a game changer in terms of popularity of such devices. What might the consequences be if wearable, sensorized, tech truly does become the next big consumer trend?
Learning from the mistakes of others is perhaps one of the most valuable lessons that the Samaritans Radar has offered to research communities concerned about privacy issues and the ethical treatment of social media data, from collection through to analysis.