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Big Data
Big Brother
Big Angst
Vodafone Institut für Gesellschaft und Kommunikation, 2016
D21 Digital Index 2015
?
DATA MINIMIZATION
data sovereignty
BIG DATA
smart data
Wolfgang Gründinger
Referent Digitale Transformation
im BVDW
e-mail: gruendinger@bvdw.org
twitter: @wolfibey
fax: +49-(0)30-2062186-26

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Big Data, Big Brother, Big Angst

Hinweis der Redaktion

  1. I don‘t want to talk about Big Data today. I want to talk about HOW WE TALK ABOUT Big Data and about technological progress more general. Because I claim that how we talk about Big Data and the Internet in Germany is going into a wrong direction.
  2. The elderly among you will remember this form of the census in 1987, wherein the government asked for harmless data such as birth date, gender, religion, high school diploma or employment.
  3. But this form triggered a massive citizens movement in Germany. In polls, the fear over data abuse was the fourth biggest fear of Germans, ranking after war, unemployment and environmental destruction. In hindsight, these massive protests appear rather ludicrous.
  4. Germany‘s most important weekly, DER SPIEGEL, warned against the data collection state. Hands up: Who thinks that there is more data collection today than 30 years ago? Who thinks that we have less privacy today than 30 years ago? Who thinks that pur society is less liberal and allows for less freedom today than 30 years ago? That doesn‘t involve that the government should be able to access all data of all citizens. Nor does it involve dass privacy is an outdated concept. But our concept of privacy has dramatically evolved. What we understand as privacy is no the same as in 1987. Nobody would get out into the streets and protest against a census. But the problem is that politics is made by people who went out into the streets against the census.
  5. Germans appear very special. In European cross-country comparison, Germany is the country where most people believe that big data has more risks than chances.
  6. Even though they don‘t even know what big data is at all. Only 8% say that they could explain what big data actually is. But 62% say that it‘s a risk.
  7. Germany is the stronghold of digital doomsayers. So how can we turn country of stubborn goats into a country of curious monkeys? I want to present 5 learnings from history.
  8. Learning 1: In 1865, the UK introduced the Red Flag Act. It ruled that a pedestrian with a red flag had to walk in front of the car to warn others that a car was arriving. That also set the speed limit to the walking speed, of course. Cars were new at the time, so people might have thought: oh, look, a car! And boom were they run over. But regardless of the strict regulation, some 2000 people died every year in car accidents. The Red Flag Act has been in force for more than 30 years. Looking back, this law seems ludicrous. But it was necessary to prevent deaths in a time where still horse-drawn carriages were dominating. Our learning here is: Sometimes you need odd laws to to create public acceptance for a new technology and to help society to adapt.
  9. Learning 2: This picture depicts how people at the end of the 19th century envisioned how we would live in the year 2000. As we know today, this vision was not quite accurate, as there are no moving buildings, for instance. But we can draw to conclusions from that picture: 1) We tend to extrapolate technological progress in a linear manner. At the time, coal-powered steam locomotives were the big new shit, and people believed that this will just stay more or less the same. 2) We have no fantasy when it comes to culture. The people in the picture still look like the same as 100 years ago – they did not change at all. We tend to think that peopl won‘t change – but obviously the change, they adapt, and so do social norms, values und behavior.
  10. 3. When the safety belt was introduced by law in 1972, only 5% of drivers used it – millions refused. The introduction of mandatory seat belt use evoked massive protests. People were concerned about their freedom and the biggest fear was to get stuck in the car through the safety belt in the case of an accident. Now, in hindsight, this angst turned out as nonsens. This is our third learning from history: Fear is a poor basis for decision-making.
  11. 4. What does this map here show? Any guesses? This is the coverage of Google Street View. All Europe is covered but a little Galic village named Germany and Austria. This is because only in these two countries millions of complaints by cititzens made it meaningless to maintain the service.
  12. And even in the bigger cities where Google Street view does exist, it is rather useless as many buildings are pixelated because of citizens‘ complaints. People didn‘t want the facades of their houses fotografed. That is just insane, as everyone can just walk there and take a picture himself, it‘s a public space after all. The learning we can draw from this story is: Privacy is a very subjective concept. It has no objective criteria. Information and trust are key factors that inform our idea of privacy.
  13. 5. You might be familiar with the Austrian law student Max Schrems who filed a lawsuit against Facebook and forced the company to release the data collected about him. And the result was a file of 1222 pages. That is a lot of data.
  14. Indeed, more than 90% of the world‘s data has been generated since 2011. And it‘‘s getting more.
  15. Learning 5: The principle of Datensparsamkeit or data minimization that has guided our understanding of data protection is outdated. The norm of data minimization does not fit with the empirical reality of massive data accumulation. Rather than turning the wheel of the time back, we need informed, educated citizens who are aware what data are collected by whom and what happens with these data, and who have the capacity to decide which data they want to share and which they don‘t. Hence, the better concept is data sovereignty.
  16. And also the term BIG DATA is in need of renewal. Big Data sounds like Big Brother and the Orwellian totalitarian surveillance state, and that certainly will not contribute to a sound and differentiated debate. Furthermore, big data is useless. It‘s just a huge pile of data, but you don‘t do anything with it. The better term therefore is smart data. It sounds lless scary, and the opposite of smart data would be stupid data or dumb data, and noone wants to be stupid or dumb.
  17. I hope I could give you some ideas about how to turn the country of stubborn goats into a country of curious monkeys, and if so, please send me a fax.