Worth listening to Prof. Rohan Samarajiva break down the pros and the cons of drone use – and related sticky issues around big data, anonymization and machine learning this brings up.
This month, Sri Lanka’s army set up a drone regiment. Terms such as ‘organic aerial reconnaissance’ and disaster response are being used. But are we know with any technology, they come ‘locked’ with ethical and social dilemmas which go unnoticed.
This kind of deep discussion that professor Samarajiva brings, around whether citizens approve or recognize the privacy they forfeit for convenience, should be asked all the time. Otherwise, just as how the data mining companies are allowed to exploit us, a new technology could do the same until it’s way too late.
We love our machines – until we begin to see how they conspire against us.
It comes as no surprise that the Amazon Echo speaker is listening more closely than people think. Let’s be clear: It’s not listening in, it’s eavesdropping. The word has been around for more than 300 years! It describes the act of someone secretly “listening under the eaves” to another.
Alexa is supposed to be in ‘listening mode’ only when the speaker is addressed. Last week, however, Amazon confirmed that some of its employees did listen to recorded conversations. Employees! Not Amazon’s software. Are you comfortable with that? Some folks secretly listening in under the Artificial Intelligence eaves? Oh sure, for ‘quality and training purposes’?only. All in the interest of Big Data. The Atlantic reports that millions of people are using a smart speaker, and many have more than one close by. (Read it: Alexa, should we trust you?”)
In May last year, the speaker recorded a conversation of a husband and wife and sent it to a friend. I wrote about a related matter a few weeks back. I’ll never be comfortable with a piece of hardware sitting in a room just there to listen to me. The Bloombergarticle reports that some employees at Amazon listen to 1,000 clips of recordings per shift. Like some privatized surveillance company, laughing at all the conversations going on behind closed doors. Beyond eavesdropping, it is audio voyeurism! Aren’t you troubled by that?
We were once alarmed by having too many cameras aimed at us. Now it’s listening devices. Does the convenience factor blunt people to the privacy they give up?
It may seem tempting to think WhatsApp could be a great Facebook substitute. But that’s amlost like giving up donuts for breakfast, and having a bar of chocolate instead.
For starters, Facebook owns WhatsApp – a little known fact. It bought it for $19 billion in 2014. That was when many were becoming aware of that thing called ‘Chat apps.’ This means much of user data, inclusing phone records, pictures, text chats etc are being scooped up into a giant data blender.
Also, Whatspp is not a mini broadcast station. No ‘PDA’ feature – for public displays of affection.
And just in case you’re wondering if Instagram might be an substitute, bad news. Facebook owns that too. Like not putting cream and refined sugar in your tea, and using consensed milk instead.