Computers, Privacy & the Constitution

Goodwill data sharing

-- CarolineVisentini - 24 Apr 2015

On March 24, 2015 Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed a passenger jet into the French Alps. One hundred and fifty people died. For four days, the police, the aircraft industry, authorities, and all the families involved questioned what had happened. It took more than one hundred hours for the airplane’s black box to be located and its content released – a very long time to understand that the co-pilot suffered from psychological disturbs and that he was under heavy treatment in Germany due to suicidal tendencies.

The dream of being an international captain, to fly across oceans, a feasible dream for any pilot, was not that simple for Andreas. He decided not to declare his illness in order to chase his dream and keep flying. His employer, Germanwings (whose parent company is Lufthansa), let him pilot planes alone in the cockpit, a space that can be locked from inside and that is equipped with bullet proof door.

Data sharing

In the “trillion sensors universe” that we live today, innumerous amount of information of Andreas – and of the majority of others - is available online: the “network” is fast becoming the external human nervous system. As a result, it is a fact that some of that data would have been very helpful, and why not say life saving: if Andreas’ doctors were somehow obligated to inform Andreas’ employer of his health conditions, or if that information was simply available, thus it was so relevant for risk management purpose, that tragic accident would have been avoided. Very sadly, it was not.

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, a major international initiative, released a new global report stating that cities as we know today generate around 80% of the economic output and consume around 70% of energy use. This may be enough to attest that the way major cities in the world currently evolve is already a critic metric for the future path of human evolution, due to climate change threats. As pioneering cities around the world, such as Leeds – UK, Bogota – COL or Copenhagen – DEN, show that there are ways for development without having a long-term negative impact to the environment and, consequently, to the quality of human life. There may be ways for evolving with positive long-term impacts for the society and savings in infrastructure, healthcare and transportation if we combine right investments in data gathering and planning.

According to the same study, smart grids for electricity and massive information gathering on transportation and health could be excellent starting points. For example, the rapidly falling costs for wind and solar energy could lead to a renewable energy society in a couple of decades. The ability of self-generating energy, through your personal wind generator or solar panel, would illuminate more than a billion people in countries in need of basic infrastructure supplies.

It is clear that the “network” can tell us more about who and where we are than ourselves. It would be a great idea to diligently share anonymous personal information on different matters, the most important ones for humanity to live better and evolve, once the “network” has an enormous power of correlation.

Sharing data to improve lives connects directly with our daily routines. Since we live in a city-based society, the cities themselves have become a central matter on explaining the urgency to discuss the “how to share information” issue. One example would be the smart cities concept, which can be unfolded in many facades, many of which are relevant for human development, but none of those work without reasonable data sharing. We are still far from that. One of the first steps is to define what would be “reasonable” and, after that, assure that such data is not sold to thousands of advertisers and brands or would be stored improperly (i.e. in Ireland), what would violate citizens’ anonymity, identity, and dignity.

Goodwill and evolution

A user-regulated online environment could be a powerful repository of information for the civil society, with the objective to exchange anonymous information of daily routines of the subscribed user. We are entering a new stage of human evolution, in which 28 billion devices will be connected to the network by 2020, creating a $7.1 billion market, according to International Data Corp, a research firm. As a society, we must take the best out of that to improve our lives and lives of future generations.

A “by users, for users” system, based in open source software and anonymity, meaning that one would be able to search on very specific data, but not names or addresses of people, it could be possible to develop a myriad of solutions to our daily lives: with the possibility of fighting diseases with much more accuracy, to develop vaccines, improve transportation and logistics, water and energy consumption and many more. Smart garbage cans could send pings when they are full, we could correlate soil conditions climate and humidity… Life in the city would be utterly improved.

The new status quo

The ways to achieve this proposal would require awareness and implementation by citizens, companies, and Governments. A few initiatives are ongoing. The field experience generated through the Ebola war and its related data sharing in Africa shows us a relevant feedback. Startups are creating solutions such as transforming a mobile phone into a laboratory with data shared online.

It is obvious that protecting personal data is unquestionable. We are very close to the “end of forgetting”, once the “network” will keep all the records of whatever we do. Losing the opportunity to leverage from that and from the possible correlations that exist in all information we generate everyday seems irrational. As intelligent and evolving animals we must evolve together, learning and improving as fast as we can. The idea of doing that through a network of goodwill data being shared, an environment ruled and regulated by the society, for the society, as ethically and transparent as possible, seems thrilling.


Webs Webs

r2 - 30 Jun 2015 - 14:22:10 - MarkDrake
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