FIONA ONASANYA

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - NEWS - Fiona Onasanya Peter­bor­ough’s MP writes her reg­u­lar col­umn for the Peter­bor­ough Tele­graph

Iwas re­cently shown a video demon­strat­ing a new tech­nol­ogy prod­uct; I won’t state the name of the com­pany that man­u­fac­tured it, how­ever, I can say that it’s very likely that any­one read­ing this article on­line will in­ter­act with them in the near fu­ture.

The prod­uct is amaz­ing: it is a small speaker that re­sponds to voice com­mands. You can ask it what the weather will be like, how bad the traf­fic on the roads will be, and to play mu­sic.

At this point, I was in­trigued; I could eas­ily see my­self buy­ing one.

The scene shifted: chil­dren were us­ing the speaker. There was noth­ing sin­is­ter about it, per se: the chil­dren wanted to play a game of mu­si­cal chairs, and the speaker obliged. At first, I was again in­trigued but then I felt a sense of dis­quiet.

Be­cause of the speaker’s small size and pleas­ing de­sign, it’s easy to think of it as be­ing just an­other ap­pli­ance; it looks un­ob­tru­sive. But step back a mo­ment: it’s con­stantly con­nected to the in­ter­net. The “mu­si­cal chairs” fea­ture in­di­cates that it would reg­is­ter the voices of our chil­dren and know the games they play. That in­for­ma­tion would then be streamed back to a large cor­po­ra­tion. Yes, we get a use­ful, ver­sa­tile speaker: but at what cost?

Our coun­try has never truly had a pub­lic de­bate about pri­vacy, specif­i­cally, what it means in the 21st cen­tury. Many of us are will­ing to trade off the ad­vanced ser­vices we re­ceive in ex­change for per­sonal in­for­ma­tion. So­cial me­dia knows where I live, my mu­si­cal tastes, my mar­i­tal sta­tus, and who my re­la­tions are. Search en­gines know what I’ve looked up. My mo­bile phone trans­mits my cur­rent lo­ca­tion. We ac­cept this as nor­mal, if we bother to think about it at all. For now, we en­dure tai­lored mar­ket­ing mes­sages in re­turn.

How­ever, as the demon­stra­tion of the speaker in­di­cates, the bound­aries are be­ing pushed ever out­ward: the next gen­er­a­tion could very well have their en­tire lives cat­a­logued on­line. Be­cause of the seam­less, friendly way that it’s done, they will not be in­clined to ob­ject. But imag­ine this: let’s say that in­sur­ance companies had ac­cess to that data, and thus could grant or deny cov­er­age on that ba­sis. In­sur­ance companies al­ready of­fer apps to track how you drive, osten­si­bly to lower your bill.

There are many ur­gent is­sues to be ad­dressed in West­min­ster: get­ting tech gi­ants to pay their taxes is one. I will be urg­ing my col­leagues that tax trans­parency should be ac­com­pa­nied by clar­ity about how our vi­tal data is gath­ered and used. We should have the right to put bound­aries on this; we should openly dis­cuss what the right to pri­vacy will mean in the fu­ture.

Please note: Po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent Andy Gipp and I are host­ing an Open Fo­rum at St. John the Bap­tist Church on 13th Oc­to­ber at 7pm. Please at­tend and join in the dis­cus­sion.

The the next gen­er­a­tion could very well have their en­tire lives cat­a­logued on­line. Be­cause of the seam­less, friendly way that it’s done, they will not be in­clined to ob­ject.

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