“If you’re not paying with your money you are probably paying with your data” Will Strafach, a security specialist who has analysed the Onavo app.
It would be hard to ignore the media shocks around data this year. It kicked off in January with George Soros speaking at Davos, where he condemned Facebook and Google as being menaces to our society. He stated that these data rich companies ‘deceive their users by manipulating their attention and directing it towards their own commercial purposes’. Then, like a terrible fulfillment of prophecy, the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica controversy in March was unleashed; revealing a gross misuse of this power.
In an attempt at defense, this year has seen EU GDPR regulations come into play and the government has launched a data ethics framework which ‘describes the value judgements and approaches we make when generating, analysing and disseminating data’. Apple have also just announced new rules that will restrict apps from harvesting user data. We are in the midst of a data nightmare, where no one really understands who owns what, and what they’re doing with it.
At Untapped, we are clear where we stand, and it’s that data should be used to enhance people’s lives, not damage or manipulate them. When a company errs on the side of using people’s personal data for their own commercial gains, a line is being crossed and the social implications are extremely worrying. It’s not just us that want this. In the recent Deloitte Millennial Survey, they found that 83% of Millennials believe that company objectives should include:
• Making a positive impact on society and the environment • Creating innovative ideas, products and services
The use of data and AI clearly has the potential to tick both these boxes. It very much feels like we are at a turning point, where companies could choose to take advantage of the public and their data to manipulate behaviours and make financial gains, or they could choose to dig out their moral compasses and start innovating for good.
It's certainly not all doom and gloom. Benjamin Kumpf has outlined the various ways AI is revolutionising how we live and can help protect our environment. These outlined projects are using AI to improve decision-making for rapid disaster responses and testing whether chatbots can be used to improve providing aid to those affected by crisis.
Principles, that indicate whether technology is being used for purely commercial gain, or for social benefit. We thought we’d take a moment to answer a few of their questions:
1) Tech for who? Is it for the 99% and not just the 1%? Does it create wealth, agency and knowledge for everyone and not just the few?
Our tech is designed completely for our users to enhance and empower their lives by helping them learn more about themselves.
2) Has it been designed to address an issue or need? Or maybe to instill a sense of wonder and awe?
People aren’t collecting their own data for themselves. Users of our platform create their own data to generate insights for themselves. They can start looking at their own patterns and take charge of their behaviour, instead of being manipulated by companies.
3) Has it been designed responsibly?
Our AI is trained by our coaches, our psychotherapists and our research team. Care and support is at the centre of it and empowering our users is the goal.
4) Does it give power and agency to people?
This was our first and foremost goal. We wanted to put people in the driving seat of their data, their development, and their lives
5) It doesn’t have to be about scale, but it does need to be bold.
Our internal motto is ‘be brave, be bold’, and we’re on a mission to scale. Everyone needs support, and everyone has a right to control over their own data.
The use of data and AI is still relatively new to most of us, which is why it is important to start having these conversations, why we need data ethics, and why we need companies to take responsibility. The uncomfortable truth is that this is an open secret, and no one is going to solve this unless people care enough.
At Untapped, we are dedicated to using data to enhance, but we can only succeed if you do too.
“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” John Stuart Mill
Written by Georgia Waters