Tech Trends 2019: IT is everywhere but can it be trusted?
In January 2019, a BBC news item "Tech trends: the end of truth as we know it?" contained a catchy headline and provided plenty to think about.
The main trend and driver for change appears to be the insatiable desire for data – generated by the myriad of applications increasingly embedded in the world. Many of these have some utility to the user, but if 2018 has taught us anything, it was that there is much more money to be made by the application supplier. Typically, the user has only the vaguest understanding of what is actually known about them, and how the supplier makes money from their data. In response, some companies will make money selling this information back to users – in the same way as anti virus companies protect us at a price – but that will only appeal to those that take the threat seriously. GDPR has put the largest data users such as Facebook, under pressure in 2018, and shed some welcome light on the data protection issue. It remains to be seen if 2019 sees more progress or whether 2018 will be seen as a high-water mark.
There are also concerns about the ubiquity of tech, the lack of resilience and potential for misuse. At a recent party a friend of mine was telling a story about a new voice-controlled lighting system in his house – that responded to his mother saying “Alexa, dim the lights” while on the phone from South Africa. The lights duly dimmed, but they also unexpectedly did again when he recounted the story to us despite the fact that he was five miles away from home and his phone was in his pocket. This is an example of the unexpected consequences from increased integration of tech in our daily lives.
The data outage at O2 in December 2018 demonstrated both our increasing reliance on tech and vulnerability to system failure. Many individuals lost access to Facebook (probably a positive side effect) but many small businesses reliant on telephone banking had more significant problems and some public utilities such as bus indicators also went down. For business, reliance on tech can offer significant savings but the cost of system failure can be considerable.
The third area of concern has grown out of the revelations of unwitting gaps left by the tech companies that have been exploited by others, or more malign activities apparently promoted by governments. Trust in any system is important but we cannot be naïve when it comes to the human propensity to exhibit evil as well as good. Human error or neglect remain ever present risks however clever and secure the tech appears to be.
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