Apple CEO, Tim Cook’s powerful speech just last week at the privacy conference in Brussels highlighted the good and bad of technology. But of course, the bad news is what we all remember and perhaps, it’s important we do this time, not just for its shock appeal.
Tim Cook applauded the EU’s effort in regulating data through the GDPR law passed earlier this year. But he also called massive attention to the dangers of the ‘industrial data complex’ as he puts it.
‘Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve how lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies,’ Cook said. ‘Rogue actors and even governments have taken advantage of user trust to deepen divisions, incite violence and even undermine our shared sense of what is true and what is false.’
Tim Cook then went on to break the worst news in the following statement:
‘Our own information from the every day to the deeply personal is being weaponized against us with military efficiency.’
Some quick analysis
While technology has created massively capable weapons like A-bombs, machine guns and airstrike drones among others, the bar has been raised higher more recently. Technology today uses knowledge; our thoughts, feelings, and emotions as weapons to target us and persuade us into actions we ordinarily wouldn’t take.
Cook explained in his speech:
‘Every day billions of dollars change hands and countless decisions are made on the basis of our likes and dislikes, our friends and families, our relationships and conversations, our wishes and fears, our hopes and dreams.
‘These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold.
‘Taken to it’s extreme, this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. Your profile is then run through algorithms that can serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into hardened convictions.’
It is this ‘enduring digital profile’ that can be used against us, in an effort to persuade, influence, manipulate, completely without your knowledge.
‘we shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences, this is surveillance, said Cook.
How then can we protect ourselves in this age of oversharing
- Utilize privacy settings controls and browse in incognito mode a lot more. You are in charge of what you share, share as little as possible. If the site you are visiting is making this difficult, then leave it.
- Consciously work to improve your self-awareness (how you understand and process your own emotions) and social awareness (how you perceive others’ abilities to manage emotions) This will help you know when you are being targeted or manipulated by someone to do something that doesn’t serve your interest.
- Master the 3-question rule. Before you share a post or comment on one, ask yourself:
- Does this need to be said?
- Does this need to be said by me?
- Does this need to be said by me now?