What do you think? How many applications do you have loaded in your smartphone?
Even approximately? 30, 50, 100, 150?
And who among us has read the terms and conditions of the applications they use, in order to know what is done with the personal data we leave behind?
Are they shared with other applications, for what purpose? Are they stored in France, Europe, the USA, China, Russia?
Perhaps we will answer that we are not interested in it, that we agree not to know what is being done with OUR personal data, that we are doing what WE want, and that in any case we have nothing to hide.
OK. But in our companies?
In our companies, do we know how much software is used?
Do we know what data we have on our employees, prospects, customers, partners?
Can we tell us what our companies and their service providers are doing with this data?
This is different, because it is no longer OUR data but the data of our employees, our prospects, our customers or our partners.
And even if everything goes well with these people, one day they will come to ask us, as business leaders, to be accountable for what we do with their personal data.
The same people who don’t care about the apps on their smartphones and the digital traces they leave on social networks will find it unacceptable that our companies can violate their personal data, their privacy, their privacy.
A world of Big Data & AI
We live in a world where progress depends on the accumulation of data. It is the world of big data and artificial intelligence.
Big data is the fact that nowadays, the collection, transfer, storage and processing of personal data has almost no limits.
Data is considered an essential natural resource that increases the power of algorithms.
These algorithms, when used in situations close to our human activities, are called « artificial intelligences »:
These artificial intelligences allow us, for example:
• to find the fastest route from point A to point B, anticipating traffic jams and reacting immediately to traffic accidents
• to dialogue with a machine to have a fast and efficient customer service
• to help us make decisions, or even make decisions for ourselves
• And even to identify each cow in a herd of several thousand heads using facial recognition algorithms. This is for example what the Chinese unicorn SenseTime proposes (total fundraising = $2.2 billion).
Yes, but these artificial intelligences also allow:
• To influence tens of millions of citizens on their purchases, lifestyles and political choices
• Identify with the same facial recognition algorithms the regular customers in a store, the movements of each individual in a public space, and even the intentions of each individual according to their behaviour in a public place
To a Black Mirror-like future ?
Do you remember the « Free Fall » episode of the Black Mirror series, on the 1st of Season 3?
At the time it was a science fiction episode, first broadcast on Netflix on October 21, 2016, just 3 years ago.
I quickly go back to the story: it takes place in a world where each person scores others from 0 to 5, with the highest scores having access to better services.
Lacie, a young American girl wants to obtain the house of her dreams in a very chic and select residential area. To do this, she must have a social credit rating of 4.5/5, which she has almost reached since its rating is 4.2/5.
While she is trying to get those 3 10ths of a point she is missing, a series of incidents actually make her fall to the point of becoming a real tramp on the digital social credit scale.
Terrifying, isn’t it?
And all the more terrifying because the dystopia of this episode of Black Mirror is not very far from reality in China.
You are all familiar with the « social credit » system developed by the Chinese government, which evaluates the daily lives of its own citizens in order to reward the « good » subjects of the Middle Kingdom, but above all to grant sanctions to the « bad » ones.
It is thus possible to become a bad citizen, a « discredited » citizen, because of dissenting political opinions, non-payment of taxes or fines, dissemination of « false information », but also walking a dog without a leash or using a reserved space on public transport.
Discredited » citizens are on the Communist Party’s blacklist, and can no longer take out a bank loan or buy an apartment.
Since May 2018, Chinese people with low scores in the system can no longer buy train or plane tickets for a period of one year. According to the report of the National Credit Information Centre, last year China prevented 17.5 million « discredited » citizens from buying airline tickets and 5.5 million from buying train tickets. 23 million!
In China, Alibaba developed the City Brain in the city of Hangzhou (6 million inhabitants).
Traffic jams have been reduced by 11%, street cleaning has been improved, parking space allocation has been optimised and air quality control has been strengthened.
In addition to Alibaba, which manages the autonomous city, Baidu manages the autonomous vehicles, Tencent manages e-medicine and iFlyteck manages voice recognition.
Building on this success, Alibaba is preparing to deploy City Brain in 15 other cities as well as in Malaysia.
City Brain uses data from public authorities and in return designs services for users: it is an exchange of good practices between the State, BATX (Chinese GAFAM) and citizens.
But be careful, City Brain can know in a few milliseconds who you are, where you are, what you are doing, who you have met recently and even what you are going to do, thanks to the development of predictive AI.
Tomorrow, all public or centralised services, providing water, electricity, 5G network, medical or educational services will be connected and linked to data from City Brain, reinforced by the « Social Credit » programme.
As a result, to access minimum services, citizens will be required to be connected (ended the « to live happily hidden lives »).
The condition for the development of these technologies is simple: the renunciation of privacy. Everyone must be willing to see and be seen.
Will this Chinese reality become a global reality ?
Are there not other models, other initiatives, other rules in other parts of the world?
In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed a connection city project in Toronto’s Quayside neighbourhood with Google subsidiary Sidewalk Labs in Ottoman Atlantic Canada.
The promise for the population is a futuristic city where the problems of traffic congestion, safety and pollution would be solved.
It is therefore a national project, launched by a Prime Minister capable of understanding all the issues at stake, which aims to provide comfort and security to citizens.
And yet, this project will probably not see the light of day as originally planned.
It will have to be rethought, revalidated, better supervised, with more safeguards.
Because it is subject to very significant resistance from citizens, pressure groups and various political movements.
Citizens, pressure groups and political movements know perfectly well that beyond promises and 3D models, reality is that:
This resistance is positive! It is not a question of fighting against the progress and development of big data and AI.
In Canada and around this project, it is important to be able to continue to ask fundamental questions such as:
• How will personal data from the huge quantities of sensors and cameras be stored, shared and used?
• Will individuals be able to refuse to leave digital traces of their movements and lifestyles?
• What profitability will Google get from this project and what are its plans for expansion?
• Is there still a place for the privacy of citizens?
Beyond this Canadian example, we can observe a major evolution in our societies in terms of privacy protection.
Data Breach & sanctions
The Cambridge Analytica case in 2016 made it clear that the information provided to Facebook can be used to direct Internet users’ attention and thus try to guide their political choices.
In Germany, this awareness has led to a ban on the sale of the product chosen by consumers as « toy of the year ».
« My friend CAYLA », the doll that communicates with the child, and with the application attached to it that allows anyone to connect to it with a simple phone.
In a much more structuring way, there is the arrival of the GDPR, the famous General Data Protection Regulation.
The GDPR is a new legal and technical framework for the protection of personal data.
And it is Europe that has clearly succeeded in imposing it on the whole planet.
The GDPR is like the highway code: we could have done without it a century ago.
But today, it is impossible to imagine that there is no highway code, and that this highway code is not almost the same from one country to another.
There are commonly accepted and respected rules, traffic signs, warnings and sanctions. For the benefit of better traffic flow and our safety.
And manufacturers are participating in this code because they have gradually added turn signals, mirrors, seat belts to cars…
This European regulatory revolution has led to major regulatory changes to adjust to the DGMP: California, Japan, Brazil,…
When it comes to sanctions, there is not a quarter left in the world without Facebook being fined several million dollars.
In France, the CNIL has fined Google €50 million.
And each company, whatever its size and field of activity, is likely to be subject to a serious sanction, in terms of amount, image or value:
Let’s take 3 examples of companies that have been sanctioned for less than a year:
Barreiro Hospital: 400,000 euros
Sergic: 400,000 euros
Active Assurance: 180,000 euros
Each of these companies has been punished for violating the security of the personal data of hundreds of thousands of citizens.
And perhaps we are one of those citizens.
Perhaps you or someone in your family has been hospitalized in Barreiro hospital, near Lisbon, or has given Sergic personal information in order to find a rental, or Active Assurance to benefit from cheaper car insurance.
Would we be happy to learn that for us or our loved ones, medical data, employment contracts, pay slips, bank accounts, family passbooks… are stored and made accessible for no reason, without time limit, without security?
Is it not important for us to know that this type of information must be subject to some protection, that our privacy must remain private, that our personal data must remain personal?
So I come back to my question at the beginning: are we ready to let Facebook, Waze, Instagram and FaceApp freely use our personal data? Yes ? Okay! Okay!
But at the same time, do we find it acceptable that a real estate agency, insurance company or hospital can store, share or make accessible our most confidential data. No ? It’s quite natural!
In reality, we all have a part of public life and a part of private life within us.
There are times when we are Don Diego de la Vega, a public man surrounded by his family and the notables of California, who likes to show himself in the luxurious privacy of his hacienda.
And there are times when we are Zorro, perfectly anonymous and doing everything to remain so.
Tonight, let’s become the Zorro within us again, let’s wear the hero’s mask.