During Julian Assange’s final interview before Ecuadorian officials shut off his internet access, the WikiLeaks founder told the World Ethical Data Forum in Barcelona, Spain, that it will soon be impossible for any human being to not be included in global databases collected by governments and state-like entities.
“This generation being born now… is the last free generation. You are born and either immediately or within say a year you are known globally. Your identity, in one form or another –is coming as a result of your idiotic parents plastering your name and photos all over Facebook or as a result of insurance applications or passport applications– is known to all major world powers.”
Keeping in mind such technology giants as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, Assange stated that that Silicon Valley’s biggest and most powerful companies will deploy Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) to gather big data, that will lead to a reconstitution of the global economic order. “They are basically open-cut harvesting the knowledge of humankind as we express it, when we communicate with each other, this classical model, which people in academia call “surveillance capitalism” has changed now” – he said.
Being included in the global network with all the personal data open to the supervising authorities will take away the individual freedom and stays almost out of our control. With the successful implementation of big data and AI in collecting and sharing the information, the next step is for the new economic model to follow suit.
Mr Assange predicts that “It’s a really very important and severe economic change. Which is to take the surveillance capitalism model and transform it instead into a model that does not yet have a name, an ‘AI model’. Which is to use this vast reservoir to train Artificial Intelligence of different kinds. This would replace not only intermediary sectors –most things you do on the internet is in a sense more efficient intermediation– but to take over the transport sector, or create whole new sectors”.
Speaking at the World Ethical Data Forum, Jennifer Robinson, the lawyer of Julian Assange stated: “For more than eight years we have been fighting a number of landmark cases, in multiple jurisdictions, to protect something we thought was sacrosanct, that perhaps too many have taken for granted: the right to freedom of speech and the freedom of publishers to publish information in the public interest.”
Robinson also spoke of the financial “blockade”, under which the worlds major credit card companies and payment transfer services banned WikiLeaks, cutting them from donations and basically taking the control over the individual’s willingness to support the activity of the organisation, restricting the available means of payment. The case against WikiLeaks can be used as precedent against other media organisations in the future.
However, the basic personal information itself is not that valuable before it is used for marketing, monitoring or restricting the individual. The calculator, developed by the Financial Times in 2013, shows that the information about age, gender, and location costs an average of $0.00054 (including the US inflation), income details and shopping histories are a little more valuable, they both sell for $0.0011. The information about people, who are believed to be “influential” within their social networks, sells for $0.00081.
The digital industry is boiling with new inventions, financial models shifts and ethical controversies. Ralph Merkle, an inventor of cryptographic hashing and Merkle trees, made a talk on the public-key cryptography – a system that uses pairs of keys: public keys which may be disseminated widely, and private keys which are known only to the owner. This accomplishes two functions: authentication, where the public key verifies that a holder of the paired private key sent the message, and encryption, where only the paired private key holder can decrypt the message encrypted with the public key. Annie Machon, a former intelligence officer at MI5, and David Brin, scientist, the New York Times bestselling author, also spoke on the topic of digital technology implementation in data collecting and protection.
E&S Group is one of the companies concerned about the development direction of the DLT technology as well as the market regulation framework, data protection and rights violations that can be the other side of the coin of rapid digitalisation. Yuliya Khrenova, Education and Communications Manager at E&S Group, took part at the World Ethical Data Forum to highlight the situation on the Maltese market and discuss the focal points of the upcoming transparency promising regulation and potential of the companies moving to operate on the Blockchain Island.