James O'Brien caller explains the danger of tech giants collecting our data

18 February 2020, 14:55

This caller explained the dangers of living in a world where tech giants mine our data and use our political views to tailor what we see online.

"Retailers like Amazon will use your political history and when you've jumped in to their site from to inform them on what you're more likely to want," said Alex.

James joked that if he voted for Donald Trump he might be more inclined to want a Klu Klux Klan outfit.

"And centre left people want more trampolines, or whatever it may be," Alex said, "the point is they're removing your serendipity so the chances of you bumping into something and being influenced by it or thinking about it is rare."

James challenged, "Are they though? Can't they co-exist?"

The caller pointed out that with political events such as Brexit, "you notice people are polarised and much much less willing to listen to the other point of view and I think that's because they get pushed the same things they're listening to and so that makes them less responsive."

The tech giant uses our political leanings to suggest what we might like to buy, according to the caller
The tech giant uses our political leanings to suggest what we might like to buy, according to the caller. Picture: PA

"I think the longterm problem...is they're collecting so much information that it doesn't really matter what's going on at the moment but if this stuff ends up in the hands of someone who wants to use it for bad then you've got a problem.

"And I'm talking about a totalitarian state, it probably wouldn't happen in the UK," Alex said, "as individuals the guys who invent this stuff aren't evil people but it's what it's used for in the end. The thing is they're incredibly good at making great things but the thing is they're incredibly good at making mistakes as well."

"The amount of info that they have on you and what that can be used for in a really bad situation is the thing to worry about," he said, countering that he didn't think tech giant CEOs want to do that.

James reflected that if the information become commoditised you can't necessarily control who gets hold of it and that's when we should be concerned as citizens.