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use of connected devices and apps like Facebook’s and Google’s, which are mostly offered free of charge. Whether those privacy violations are bugs or intentional features, they raise pivotal questions about the effects of emerging technology on society’s future.
Right now, tech companies are in the critical spotlight. But as the 2016 election demonstrated, their inventions can not only be deployed by advertisers to make sales, but also by foreign actors or other nations to distort our politics. That seems like an obvious harm, but what if the government that wants to tap a company’s technology is our own? What should the public permit?
During the same week when Facebook’s intentional surveillance app, Project Atlas, and the glitch in Apple’s FaceTime were uncovered, The Intercept reported that New York and other states are digitally capturing the unique voice characteristics of prisoners—another biological metric like DNA and fingerprints that could be used to identify and track individuals. Separately, IBM also showcased improvements in the accuracy of its facial recognition technology, which is based on artificial intelligence software, according to a TechCrunch report.
This is the kind of innovation that worries McNamee, who is concerned not only about Facebook but also about all companies involved in building a more pervasive infrastructure of connected cars, smart home appliances, sensors, cameras, and voice-enabled assistants that are collecting vast caches of personal data.
“Artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are coming to market and becoming mainstream,” McNamee told The New York Times. “These technologies are going to take the surveillance capitalism model into new places—all around the house, in your car, everywhere you go.”