Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has been outlining his three big fears concerning its future.
The three fears relate to online privacy, the way algorithms feed us news that can reinforce our existing biases, and dangers with online political advertising.
Writing for the Guardian, Sir Tim said that when it comes to personal data we are missing a trick. In effect, we do a trade with websites. In exchange for getting an online service for free, we agree to the site holding data about us.
But he says that we lose out on the potential benefits to us of having more control of our data and who we share it with.
The great man has a point, then again new GDPR rules coming into force will have a big impact on this area.
Turning to the way the internet can reinforce bias he said that algorithms supply us with information and news that appears to be most relevant to us. But, as a result: “misinformation, or fake news, which is surprising, shocking, or designed to appeal to our biases, can spread like wildfire. And through the use of data science and armies of bots, those with bad intentions can game the system to spread misinformation for financial or political gain.”
Finally, he said that political advertising can now target promotional material so accurately that according to one source at one point during the US election 50,000 versions of an ad were targeted at different people on Facebook on the same day. He asked: “Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?”
For more information on the GDPR Summit Series is taking place 30th January at 155 Bishopsgate, visit GDPR Summit London.