'Emerging Technologies a Threat to Privacy'

It is likely that by next generation entire human behavioural aspects will be transparent to hi-tech machines, says Eben Moglen

Published: 19th August 2015 04:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th August 2015 04:28 AM   |  A+A-

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  Privacy and confidentiality of individuals are under threat by a matrix of emerging technologies, according to Columbia Law School Professor Eben Moglen who is a long-standing supporter of Free Software.

Moglen, who is the founder of the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), New York, was speaking at a session on “Ethics and Emerging Technologies” at CDAC Amphitheatre here. The session was organized by ICFOSS jointly with CDAC Thiruvanathapuram, SFLC India, Internet Society Trivandrum Chapter (ISOC-TRV) and IEEE Society for Social Implications of Technology (IEEE SSIT).

Moglen pointed out that the mobile phones which most of us carry around has become a device capable of capturing and uploading various user data such as location, browsing and shopping behaviour and even lifestyle information, on to the Cloud.

The combination of the Internet, Cloud and mobile devices, with additional services such as Data Mining and Analytics, is emerging as a super machine that will soon know more about people than the people themselves. It is likely that within the next generation, entire behavioural aspects of humans will be transparent to such machines.

On other fronts, such as military robotics, a “robot infantry” will have profound ethical implications for the future. Throughout history, military forces have been guided by human values and ethics, but a non-human force may not be constrained by such ethical values while dealing with its victims.

Mishi Choudhary of SFLC New York and founder, SFLC India, pointed out that many aspects of the digital lives of citizens were being monitored, and the end-user licenses that many of us accept without even reading, actually gave the companies the permission to do so.

Entire online behaviour of billions of people are today visible to machines and to the companies that own them, and may be directly or indirectly influencing user behaviour. This has serious ramifications not just for commercial aspects such as shopping online, but even to democratic processes, Choudhary added.

Satish Babu, Director, ICFOSS, while moderating the discussions, pointed out that given the increasing role of software-driven machines in the lives of people, it is important for people to have control over such software.

The only way to do this was through Free Software, which provided rights to the user community to use, study, modify and share the software that they used.


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