Over the last two years Facebook has stumbled from scandal to scandal, with trust in the platform eroding with each mishap. In this must-read tech meets politics piece of the week, the New York Times team reveals the company’s strategy – conscious or not – of “delay, deny and deflect”. While some swallowed Sheryl Sandberg’s line that on issues like election interference, the company’s rapid growth left it unequipped for such unforeseen consequences, many weren’t buying it. This look behind the curtain gives you an insider view on the corporate, communications and lobbying decisions made during this tumultuous time. Like the oil or telco giants of the past, it seems like Facebook was ready to play rough. Based on this play-by-play, stakeholders are already asking if the company’s dirty tactics went too far.
Get ready for another “Cambridge Analytica” [The Telegraph]
Policy makers and regulators have made several important steps to oversee the tech world. Around the world, authorities have implemented measures to counter the illegal use and transfer of personal data, but is this enough? According to UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, even if her office boosted its staff and increased the size of fines, this wouldn’t be a silver bullet. The legal mechanisms the Information Commissioner’s Office has at its disposal to investigate and assess breaches will for surely reveal other cases. For Denham, companies must understand that the data they use represents real people and that what we like or share online represents who we are and must be respected.
DeepMind assured the public that Google – its parent company – would never have access to patient data received through an app, Streams, which it developed in partnership with the NHS. Now, two years later, Google has effectively taken over the app – and with it the patient data managed by Streams. Now the question is, was there ever a ‘firewall’ in place between DeepMind and Google? Last year, the app was already found in breach of UK law because patients had not consented to give their data to the app (let alone Google). Now that patient privacy has been further breached, how will the NHS give recourse to patients and ensure Google protects their privacy?
Is GDPR an asset for Europe’s competitiveness? [Bloomberg]
A recently released paper by Jian Jia and Liad Wagman of the Illinois Institute of Technology and Ginger Zhe Jin of the University of Maryland claims to show that GDPR is bad for innovation. Their findings reveal that since GDPR’s entry into force, European technology firms have been receiving less venture funding. Sadly, the majority of the damage was to young startups, launched less than three years ago. The authors predict that GDPR will result in thousands of lost technology jobs in Europe. One interesting finding – the capital flowing to software companies in Europe is higher than ever. Officials claimed new rules are meant to be adapted, but are they monitoring the impact on innovation and standing ready to course-correct?
Can Germany make up for lost time on AI? [Reuters]
Germany may be Europe’s economic power house with a strong legacy of industrial innovation, but it’s been a laggard on the global tech front. Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to use what’s probably her last term to change that. But will throwing more than 3 billion euros at investment in AI be enough? The opposition Greens don’t think so, criticising as ‘fuzzy’ the government plans announced yesterday to close Germany’s digital technology gap. It certainly has some way to go to catch up.
In case you haven’t had enough