As another decade comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to take a look back. What went well and what didn’t? What mistakes have we made, and what have we learned from them? What will we take with us into the new decade, and what will we leave behind?
As the headline suggests, the “perfect vision” (or “20/20) of today makes it easy for us to look back on past mistakes with clarity. Some of us dismiss the mistakes of the past using “hindsight is 20/20” as an excuse to let go and move on. Perhaps instead we could use our perfect vision to understand our mistakes and look at what we can do to improve, and to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
So, let’s take a look at the past ten years. A lot happened between 2010 and 2019. The US had two different presidents, Netflix became the #1 way of watching movies, Lady Gaga wore a meat dress, people went out in the streets to look for Pokémons, and the word “meme” made its way into our dictionary. The Internet grew from a fun pastime to a daily necessity. The growth of social media created a whole host of new careers, but also new ways of exploiting people’s most private information. GDPR was set into motion across Europe in response to growing concern for our digital privacy rights, and in the wake of events like Facebook’s and Cambridge Analytica’s privacy invasion. Now other similar attempts at regulation, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), are being put in place worldwide. Protests in China have also topped the news – as facial recognition and social ranking pervade. But, change doesn’t happen overnight. While efforts abound, our privacy is still being compromised in many ways. And that’s something we don’t want to take with us into the new decade.
In hindsight, we’ve made some mistakes with the Internet and technology. Even Silicon Valley innovators and pioneers have spoken out about the sort of “monster” they helped create. Roger McNamee, early investor and mentor of Mark Zuckerberg, is currently on tour to promote his book, Zucked, which goes into great detail about what he refers to as the “Facebook catastrophe” – the constant exploitation of our data for profit and ultimately control. Jaron Lanier also speaks out frequently about the evils of the Internet, urging us to leave social media and turn the tables on Big Tech putting a price tag on our data. … Tim Berners-Lee – proclaimed “father of the Internet” – has called for a “Digital Bill of Rights” for years, and recently, with The Web Foundation, launched The Contract for the Web, which outlines 9 principles for a “fair and just Internet future.” Ex-Cisco CEO, John Chambers, urges Big Tech firms to change the way they do business, or else Antitrust is inevitable. Meredith Whittaker is just one of many ex-Google employees to speak out against their former employer, warning that we are becoming “lab animals in a giant tech experiment.” She, and roughly 20,000 other ex-googlers, started a coalition of sorts they called Google Walkout for Real Change. And the list goes on.
While we are grateful for what the Internet has brought us over the past decade, it’s clear that we’re also critical of the negative effects it has had on society, and of the threat to our human rights. While the Internet is a place to come together, it’s also a place where a few corporations have tremendous power and control. Reflecting on the past years, we must think about whether or not such control over our lives is really how we want to live. How can we stop the violation of our privacy rights and make the Internet a safer place? Here are some tips on where to start:
- Use privacy-friendly platforms like Brave, DuckDuckGo, and Idka.
- Read up on the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This article explains it well. Or if you prefer watching over reading, check out The Great Hack on Netflix. It uncovers the dark world of data exploitation with key players on different sides of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
- Follow thought leaders on social media. We suggest Privacy Project, Roger McNamee, Carole Cadwalladr, Shoshana Zuboff … and of course Idka.
- Read our previous articles. Idka has a whole blog dedicated to the world of digital privacy and ethics in technology. Find them here.
- Watch the GoodTech Vidcast – an ongoing discussion around ethics and technology, hosted by Idka, with a new guest every show. Watch it here.
- Avoid using a full-face profile pic of yourself on social media. Facial recognition is one of the gateways to identity fraud. Use a webcam cover when you’re not using your camera.
- Be wary of IoT devices and baby monitors that send your data where you might not want it to go.
- Use encrypted chat.
- Don’t post pictures of your young kids online. Let them decide when they want their image online (forever).
- Get involved. Join the movement. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates on the world of digital privacy, and ethics in technology.
We hope to walk into the 20’s with a bright future ahead. It’s time to look at what we’ve learned during this decade and act in favor of improvement. Not only for ourselves, but for generations to come. Instead of looking in hindsight for what we could have done better, let’s consider re-focusing on what we can do today. Make 2020 the future. Or perhaps a new phrase is in order: Foresight is 20/20!