Publication Date: October 05, 2018
A dominant web model today is amassing data on people and selling it or using it to market products. Thanks to sophisticated tracking, digital home assistants, and a slew of internet-enabled things that collect information on consumers, firms can build remarkably detailed profiles of individuals and, with the help of artificial intelligence, make eerily accurate predictions about their behavior. As new technologies join the tool kit, the surveillance done by businesses may soon surpass that of security states. In “Uninformed Consent,” Harvard Business School professor and behavioral scientist Leslie K. John looks at how we got to this point, examining why people are unaware of the information they share online or unable to judge the cost of sharing it–if not both. She also explores ways companies can restore balance to the digital economy, so consumers can benefit from the data gathering without sacrificing their privacy. Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain expands on one potential solution–turning digital companies into information fiduciaries–in “How to Exercise the Power You Didn’t Ask For.” In “The Happy Tracked Employee,” CEO Ben Waber provides a guide to setting up ethical people analytics programs that workers will feel comfortable with. HBR interviews philosopher and privacy expert Helen Nissenbaum in “Stop Talking About Consent: It Isn’t Possible and It Isn’t Right.” The Cornell professor takes aim at ineffective and ultimately undesirable online consent policies. Finally, Jaron Lanier and Microsoft’s E. Glen Weyl tackle the surveillance economy by proposing a whole new model for the internet, in which data would be exchanged in a direct and open market, meaning that buyers would pay sellers for it. In “A Blueprint for a Better Digital Society,” they call this system “Data Dignity,” and they believe it’s the only way to avoid much worse outcomes from deepening surveillance.
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