Technology and Privacy

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Continuing somewhat on the theme of my earlier post about FaceApp, here’s a story that i happened to see this week which gave me quite a jolt. i’m really surprised that it hasn’t been more widely reported.

Ars Technica – Office 365 Declared Illegal in German Schools Due to Privacy Risks

There is considerable irony in the timing of this news, coming around the same time as everyone (especially in the US) gets themselves in a big flap about data privacy with a Russian based face morphing software. The article also makes clear that whilst Office 365 is being singled out, there are also grave concerns about Google and Apple as well.

Over the last 10-15 years these three companies have invested enormously to get their feet under the table in schools right across the world.  making their software (and sometimes hardware) commonplace in schools is seen as a great Trojan horse to ensure that the learners will remain wedded to that technology in the future as adults, both in their homes and their places of work. And, by and large, its been successful.  I had personal experiences in India of attempting to limit school costs for Microsoft licences for operating systems and office suites by launching Ubuntu Open Source labs. However, the projects met massive resistance from teachers and worries from parents and students that this would be out of alignment with what the children needed to learn for the exams (what other companies in the world have been able to make school exams dependent on their products??)

Schools, both public and private, need to have very clear goals and ideas about how they’re using IT and how they’re ensuring data privacy and protection. The shift to cloud computing has been enormously tempting, simply from a cost saving point of view. I well recall the amount of money we needed to set aside to pay for school servers when our Group was expanding in Delhi. However, without this option, data protection and backup was haphazard, separated on every separate individual laptop and desktop across the schools. Many logistical headaches were created by the fact that localised hacking could still be a risk, but also those inevitable cases where students claimed weeks of work had been maliciously or inadvertently deleted from a computer lab computer. No data trails and no cloud meant very little evidence.

Issues of cloud computing, especially when the data moves easily and invisibly across national borders will, inevitably, cause disquiet and concern. What’s happened in Germany may seem extreme. However, if the net result is more introspection, transparency and clarity about what’s needed to ensure data privacy and protection for our children, then it may have a positive outcome.

 

Tim Cook – Apple CEO

Tim Cook

“If you want to take credit, first learn to take responsibility.”

Tim Cook, Apple CEO
Stanford University Commencement, 2019

A highly relevant and timely message from the heart of Silicon Valley, where he acknowledged hard questions need to be asked about credit and responsibility. New generations can learn this lesson, so that they won’t repeat the mistakes of others.

 

 

Political Correctness Gone Crazy !

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
Evelyn Beatrice Hall

For anyone who’s read George Orwell’s 1984, you’ll recall how a big part of the sense of oppression and discomfort comes from the apparent ease with which the populace fall in to Groupthink – a sort of somnambulent, unquestioning acceptance that there’s one way of thinking and all go along with it for an easy life. Of course, as we see in the film, this is encouraged and developed by those who control ‘the system’ so as to keep the population subservient and controlled.

There are plenty of commentators who have been more than ready to show the examples of how the education systems of many developed countries have been used to achieve similar things, going right back to the early days of mass education. The use of bells, strict imposed discipline, rigidity and rewards and recognition for reproducing the views and perspectives conveyed by the teachers are amongst many examples given. The argument is that this ensured that mass education produced obedient followers, not thinking leaders ready to break moulds – a way for the 1% to ensure that the 99% stayed where they belonged.

However, here’s a pretty disturbing article from The Atlantic that highlights a trend that has been going on in colleges across the USA for some time (and arguably elsewhere as well) that has all the appearance of a self-imposed and willing form of Groupthink emanating from the students themselves as a bi-product of the sheltered and cotton-wooled childhoods that they’ve experienced. The students themselves are creating climates within which there is “one right way” to think and communicate and anyone who deviates is immediately made to pay a heavy price for their audacity.

The Atlantic – Article – The Coddling of the American Mind

One aspect not talked about in the article, but that I believe is playing a part is levels of debt and the costs of a college education. In such circumstances the pressures become far greater to see college as a means to an end, rather than as a free form growth opportunity. In my own college years, fierce debate, argument and counter-argument formed a vital part of college days (and nights). By no means was everything expressed ‘politically correct’. At times, the older (maybe wiser) me might shudder at the naivete of some of the thinking behind views that were expressed. Nevertheless, I believe the activity of forming an argument, defending it, presenting evidence, listening to others and setting out to understand why they held the views they did (without having to agree with them) was a vital learning process that I wouldn’t have missed for anything.

Where are we headed, as a species, when the person who dares to hold an unorthodox or unconventional view is to be neutralised, stifled, forced to clam up and keep it to themselves whilst all gaily sail to oblivion on a sea of group think. Where is the space for Apple’s crazy ones, the misfits?

Apple Advert - To the Crazy Ones

A Favourite Advert

I love this advert, have quoted it many times. But, this is the first time i found it on Youtube, so wanted to share:

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