Welcome to THE BIG TECH QUESTION, a monthly feature where we ask members of the H+K Technology team to debate the latest issues in tech and beyond

This month we ask: IS PRIVACY OVERRATED? Arguing the case “For” privacy is Charlie Morgan

Privacy is a complex discussion point. For instance, is it OK for anyone to read your workplace emails, not just the recipient? Is it OK to let the government listen into our private conversations to keep us safe? Do we fully understand what we’re agreeing to when we allow companies to take our data to draw opinions about what we like to consume and behave?

It’s a myriad of morality tales, but who gets to be the omnipotent one solving them?

I remember when the first “time-shift” PVR was launched in 2002. At the time the company told advertisers that this heralded a new way of advertising. A way to be more targeted, more on demand, programmatic!

This wasn’t the death of the 30 second ad, this was the birth of branded content. They could do it because they “knew” what you chose to watch, when you chose to watch it, and what you engaged you when watching adverts. I remember thinking at the time… mass market is dead, long live the long tail.

I choose…

Even then though I had no idea how far this would go. Smartphones weren’t invented then. On the go entertainment was just a Netflix dream away, and choices were abundant.

I guess the question on this discussion point is when does choice no longer become a choice? That the choice has disappeared because we’re being told what we like before we’ve even had a chance to think about it. I personally quite like being served up recommendations, but I also love discovering something new… to take the curiosity out of everyday discovery would be boring. And, I’m not ready to give up my free will.

But, here’s the rub… have I already done that without even realising it?

Every single loyalty card I own, every content subscription I’ve paid for, and every device I mess around on is collecting data. For themselves and for others. It’s already being used.

All it needs is one thing to bring it together, a universal operating system to make sense of the information and bam – the world knows me. And in truth, the world knows me already. I’m second guessed on my searches, adverts are personalised, even Sainsbury’s knows when I’ve had a tough month (wine purchases go up, natch).

A lock on the door

When you put it like that – on paper – well it looks pretty scary. So, what happens once AI comes on board for real. Will this information get turned into a virtual me? Should I be afraid? I completely agree that A.I will make for a better living. The rewards are immense. But, I believe that privacy and its use in the future should be controlled.

Misuse of private information is much like being burgled – some people have no right to go through your stuff. Remember in 2014 when a slew of s’lebs had their personal pictures leaked? Just imagine how awful that must have been? The sheer embarrassment. Imagine that was you? And, they’re out there, on the www. Forever. Makes you think right?

Don’t get me wrong – I love technology, heck I’m the MD of a practice that solely works with tech companies. Innovation is what makes me tick, seeing where it takes us is exciting. But, in this instance, I’d like a little healthy control. At the end of the day, we all like a little privacy. That’s why we have a lock on our door.