Book Review by Meryl Mead-Briggs
Tools & Weapons
The Promise and Perils of the Digital Age
Information technology is both a powerful tool and a formidable weapon. “When your technology changes the world, you bear a responsibility to help address the world you have helped create” says Brad Smith President of Microsoft and co-author of this book.
Microsoft’s data centre in Quincy Washington totals 2 million square feet or 40 football pitches, and is home to hundreds of thousands of computers. Here your data files are stored; the email you sent this morning, the photo you took yesterday. Today MS operates data centres of all sizes in more than 20 countries, supporting more than 1 billion customers. In 2013, without the knowledge of Microsoft, these data files were hacked by the National Security Agency, and leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. Microsoft argued that data being sought by the government agencies did not belong to the tech companies but to their customers. How could the tech companies fulfil their responsibilities to their customers while answering the call to protect the country, and while operating across national borders.
He looks for lessons from history from the industrial revolution, John Wilkes’s successful court ruling in 1763, Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution (right to privacy), kidnapping of Daniel Pear, Charlie Hebdo, the Stasi.
The book includes chapters on Surveillance, Privacy, Cybersecurity, Protecting Democracy, USA and China, Social Media, AI and Ethics. Even David Cameron gets a mention when he appointed Sir Nigel Sheinwald as the first Special Envoy to the US Technology Companies.
So how to strike the right balance between public safety, individual convenience and personal privacy in this new era. The world needs a mixture of self regulation and government action. This book tackles these issues.