Google, War and Ethics.

When 3,000 employees send an email to Google’s CEO about not wanting to be involved with warfare projects, it shows that there are at least 3,000 people who are willing to stand up for their own personal ethics.

It also means that in this day and age, Google employees are paid enough to have the privilege to do so.

Many people are forced to compromise their own ethics to pay the bills. At least some working for one company aren’t in such a boat, who are willing to speak up to their CEO.

Let’s see what happens.

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Facebook, Google, et al: It’s Not The Data, It’s The Context.

ContextsDylan Curran recently published Are you ready? Here is all the data Facebook and Google have on you – an article which should open the eyes of anyone who uses Facebook or Google.

It’s a good article, and it shows how much data people give up freely – who doesn’t have a Gmail account or a Facebook page these days? – but it’s lacking something that most people miss, largely because they’re thinking of their own privacy or lack of it.

I requested my data from the sites – Facebook had 384 megabytes on me, and my Google Data I will get on April 7th since I opted for 50 gigabytes. All this data, though, is limited to what I have done.

It lacks the context. We are all single trees in the forest, and these companies aren’t so much in the habit of studying trees by themselves. They have the data of the forest of trees. That context, those interactions, you can’t really download. The algorithms they have derive data from what we hand over so willingly because it costs us nothing financially.

So, while they can give us our data, and some companies do, they can’t give us someone else’s data – so we only get the data on that single tree, ourselves. We learn only a small amount of what their algorithms have decided about us, and while Facebook has a way to see some of what their algorithms have decided about you, they are not compelled to tell you everything about your digital shadow. Your digital shadow has no rights, yet is used to judge you.

What’s your context? That’s the real question. It’s what they don’t show you, what they have decided about you from your habits, that they don’t truly share. That is, after all, their business.

Know that, be conscious of it… and don’t be an idiot online, no matter how smart you think you are. Everything you do is analyzed by an algorithm.

SunTechRamble: Liability And Technology

Atomic CruiserThe really interesting thing that happened this week relates to the regulation of a computer system as a driver (at least in some circumstances).  It means that computer systems are gaining ‘privileges’ that were formerly only for humans. It was bound to happen sooner or later, but admittedly I blinked when I saw it.

Google’s efforts and it’s return in this area are noteworthy:

It appears that Google has persuaded federal regulators that — in some situations at least — the Tin Man has a heart.

In a letter sent this month to Google, Paul Hemmersbaugh, the chief counsel for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seemed to accept that the computers controlling a self-driving car are the same as a human driver…

So there’s the very cool side of this where we could celebrate this as a win. Technology in this area has gotten to the point where we can replace humans as drivers by virtue of increased safety. Google has been posting monthly reports on their self driving car project, and it seems that self-driving cars greatest danger comes from behind.  Google’s first accident involving one of their vehicles was in July of last year – and they were rear-ended.

It’s going to get more complicated if you consider the architecture.

If the vehicle is self-contained, it means it will likely need software updates. That means that unpatched cars may be roaming the countryside, since unpatched software is all over the place.

If the vehicle is completely stupid without an internet connection, as the Amazon Echo is, then connectivity to the controlling application will be an issue.

It’s most likely to be a hybrid of both. Where does your responsibility as a passenger of a vehicle you own start and begin? Will you be able to modify your own vehicle as you can now? What about auto insurance, will that go away or will we be paying insurance on a vehicle we may not own and can’t control ourselves?

Technology and Law are about to meet again. It’s going to get messy.

You might want to start negotiating your side now.