Data Privacy War?

Are we heading towards a Data Privacy War between Tech Companies?

Nasdaq Apple, Google & Facebook stocks, end of november 2018


If you haven’t already done so, it may be interesting to hear Tim Cook’s, Apple’s CEO, speech on October 24th at the European Parliament. He took the opportunity to do his little marketing, of course. But, beyond his goals as a multinational company executive, what is interesting in his speech is the way he fiercely defends data privacy.

We discover a new characteristic of this businessman: aggressiveness. Indeed, we were used to a rather cautious Tim Cook, a conservative man, from a business point of view, someone who conveyed confidence precisely because of his moderation. Someone who could even become boring, especially in facing the inevitable comparison with his predecessor, mythic Steve Jobs. To what can we attribute this new approach?

During the last three months until yesterday, Apple lost 21% of its stock market value, for 11% of Google and 22% of Facebook. Nevertheless, the descent seems to have corrected since mid-November, after, let us not forget, the Black Friday campaign, that has existed in the United States since the 1960s and where it has traditionally had a huge impact. Is this a new trend or a slight fluctuation? To be followed up.

In any case, the corporation from Cupertino, since Steve Jobs’ era, has always promoted data protection as one of its core values. This despite the fact it has endured suspicions about it. For example, in 2010, in the United States, a users group filed a complaint against the company for selling user data to third parties. Some iPad and iPhone applications would be concerned.

In any case, without naming them directly, Mr. Cook talks about

“data industrial complex”

by referring most probably, among others, to Alphabet (Google, Youtube, Android…) and Facebook (Instagram, Whatsapp,…)

“Your profile is then run through algorithms that can serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into hardened convictions”

Would the wolf have decided to put the lamb’s skin on? Or is this a genuine defense of the right to privacy?
And he added, categorically:

“This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them”

Mr. Cook probably chooses his words very thoroughly. And the word surveillance goes far beyond the usual vocabulary of corporate Big Data: surveillance is no longer a marketing word, but something else. Should we understand that Mr. Cook is trying to warn us of a danger that goes beyond the realm of business and that would squarely fit into the one of politics, or even the one of the police?

He also had a few words for Artificial Intelligence:

“For Artificial Intelligence to be truly smart, it must respect human values, including privacy. If we get this wrong, the dangers are profound. We can achieve both: great Artificial Intelligence and great privacy standards. It is not only a possibility, it is a responsibility.
In the pursuit of Artificial Intelligence we should not sacrifice the humanity, creativity, ingenuity that defined human intelligence”

By addressing the representatives of the European Union and concerning their new Data Protection Regulation:

“Thank you for your work, to your commitment to the possibility of human centered technology”

This clearly shows that Apple is strategically positioning itself on the side of the European Union and is head-on against other tech companies. Its goal here seems to be to regain the top of the smartphone market in relation to Android (Alphabet, Google, Youtube,…) A market, the smartphone market, that is beginning to show clear signs of maturity. And, at the same time, he would try to get rid of the suffocating pressure of an actual octopus of social networks, such as Facebook (Instagram, Watsapp). In this sense, it will also be interesting to see Microsoft’s position (Linkedin, Skype, Bing,…)

However, it is difficult to believe that there is only one large multinational company in the world that does not collect and trade data from its users. Since the 1950s, customer profiling has been constantly mentioned in marketing manuals. But this could vary depending on the case. For example, for Google and Facebook it could be an almost exclusive activity, while for companies like Apple or Microsoft it is not the case, because their diversification is huge.

Apparently, Apple’s new strategic direction would aim to relentlessly attack companies that are highly dependent on the data market. This would be for two reasons: one, to defeat them as competitors. The second reason for this strategy could be the wish for self-cleaning, regarding the respect towards user’s privacy.

This would achieve two goals: on one hand, to increase its market share in relation to competitors and, on the other hand, to achieve almost blind trust on the part of its users, who would therefore have no hesitation in sharing their private data over the networks, whether on iTunes or other online platforms.

The fact that Apple applauds the work of the European Union in defending data protection is very positive. But we must not forget that this corporation is huge, it has pretty much unlimited resources and, in the case of an investigation, the relationship between it and the public authorities would be comparable to the one between Goliath and David. Advantage Apple, of course. This could pose enormous difficulties for public authorities to detect potential breaches of the Data Protection Regulation.

In addition to that, the tech sector is already highly concentrated and this new Apple move, brought to its latest consequences, could lead to even higher concentration. We would actually be approaching “corporate government” in contrast to “democratic government” in a market, the tech one, which has shown a growing tendency to swallow up all the others. We can see that, for instance, in Amazon’s extraordinary expansion in all directions over the past three years.

The Week in Tech: Apple Goes on the Attack – By Jack Nicas
New York Times

Apple Is Worth $1,000,000,000,000. Two Decades Ago, It Was Almost Bankrupt
New York Times

What is Black Friday ?

Les 5 choses à savoir sur le Black Friday, qui se déroule ce vendredi (20.11.2018)
Le Nouvelliste

The Betrayal of Adam Smith – When Corporations Rule the World
by David C. Korten

David Korten
Official Website

Editor’s Website

Amazon, une multinationale à laquelle rien ne résiste
Le Temps

Apple Inc. litigation

Singularity : Artificial Intelligence and Feelings

Singularity : Artificial Intelligence and Feelings

André Guillen

Normally, we say this boy is intelligent, as a synonymous of him being clever. We used to take for granted that intelligence was an exclusively human peculiarity. And we wouldn’t imagine ourselves saying it about an artificial artifact, whether it is a car or a toy or any other thing: this machine is clever, or would we? Or would we say it when talking about a healthcare software or a computer game? I don’t think so. Not yet, at least. Singularity is not here yet.

But we, our society, our progress, as a surfer would on the top of the wave of his life, we are running and accelerating dramatically towards that point in which intelligence will surpass the human brain and it will also be characteristic of other entities. Should we say other things, other objects, other machines?

Singulari Artificial Intelligence Concept
Maybe, what we call intelligence today, will transform itself into something with it’s own entity. The Cloud may be a prehistory of what that ethereal, omnipresent intelligence could be. All that information, all that data, that amazingly Big Data, concentrated in a few computer farms all over the world and constantly shared with the whole humanity, with the permission of tech companies, of course. That could be the start of it all.
But there is something else to take into consideration. The same way we told the boy he is clever, we tell it to the girl, of course but, in both cases, we are not only telling them that they have a lot of data in their brain, or that they are able to calculate very fast, or that they can read very quickly. There is something else, something that only humans, right now, have. And that is all those things, plus feelings, moods, a certain type of sensitivity that only humans have and maybe other things that we don’t know yet. Animal activists may argue also animals can show these attributes, specially mammals. But let’s just focus, for now, on humans.

The first person to ever put on the table the concept of singularity was the mathematician John von Neumann. In fact, his real name was Neumann János Lajos and he was born in Budapest, at that time, still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. From an early age he proved to have an extremely sharp intelligence and he would become one of the most important mathematicians of his time. Among others, his contributions are important in quantum mechanics and the theory of games.

Here is one of the things he said about singularity: “technological progress will become incomprehensibly rapid and complicated” That was in the last century’s fifties.
We could define singularity as the point in which humans and machines mix, melt with each other, so that we cannot tell where one of them begins, neither where the other ends: it’s the point in which artificial intelligence surpasses the biological one. And then, yes, we will probably tell to a thing: you are clever, meaning IT is clever.

More recently specialists also talk about the concept of intelligence explosion to refer to singularity and inventor Ray Kurzweil, would say, in his book The Singularity Is Near, that the specific starting date would be the year 2045. I find a bit difficult to make such an accurate prophecy, but Mr Kurzweil has a reputation of being right in many cases, in many predictions.

Recently I met the young Swiss entrepreneur Alen Arslanagic, nominated by Forbes 30 under 30, that is the 30 most influential persons under 30 years old in their region. He told me, during an interview as part of my work for the impactIA Foundation, that the most plausible answer to the singularity, in order to avoid being ruled by the machines (or maybe the only one) would be to integrate the artificial intelligence as part of our humanity. And he would specifically say, for instance, that we will most probably be permanently connected to the cloud, in order to retrieve and to process data. He also said we would communicate with each other without talking; some tech version of telepathy, I would say. A bit weird, isn’t it? But, at the same time, absolutely fascinating.

But then, if we integrate the artificial intelligence as part of ourselves, if we become hyper-mega intelligent cyborgs, what is the point of wanting to integrate the human feelings into other bodies, like robots, for instance? What for? Because if the prophet has already gone to the mountain, to borrow a biblical image, why would we then even think about moving that mountain? We, humans, could still have feelings in exclusivity and we would enrich our lives exponentially with the integration of artificial intelligence into our own selves. A crucial issue here is still (and more each time) privacy. And another important subject, related to the former, would be who is the owner of data, of the Big Data?

In any case, we are obviously today at the verge of an incredible change in human history, a change like we have never seen before. And therefore it is difficult to predict exactly what will and will not happen. A change that has already started and that will speed up every day in the decades to come in a geometrical progression.

John von Neumann

Ray Kurzweil

impactIA Foundation

Alen Arslanagic – Forbes 30 under 30