digitaLiberties: Opinion

Civil society collaborates to fix tech

Bold and creative collaborations from across society are necessary if we are to make tech work for all.

Matthew Linares
21 October 2020
Civil society collaboration is key to ensuring technology works for all.

Finding ways to address the burgeoning problems with technology requires imagination and involvement from many sectors. Whilst there is significant regulatory movement from governments to tackle tech monopolies and associated issues, the state of the art moves fast and we see social harms emerge faster than law or design can effectively act.

With such resource behind them, tech companies themselves are extremely adept in deploying high-impact products and then orchestrating the legal, PR, design, and lobbying strands required to keep those products running and insulated from external intervention.

So we see civil society efforts such as the Real Facebook Oversight Board set up by independent experts to publicly adjudicate on problematic content on the platform since Facebook took so long to set up its own version. This shows how bold, creative collaboration is necessary to strive for preferable, pro-social outcomes. At the least it's part of the puzzle.

Interdisciplinary civic tech

In the spirit of interdisciplinary approaches, openDemocracy has been working with TrustLaw on the yourData project to explore possible legal bases for data transparency on the web. Today I join a panel at the PILnet forum for pro-bono law to discuss Contemporary Issues in Digital Rights and Privacy to discuss related questions.

"Data has become the world’s most valuable commodity, and the rapid rise of unregulated technology has ushered in new forms of discrimination, challenging traditional notions of privacy and ownership. The panelists will discuss priority actions to ensure data rights, and particularly data privacy, are upheld in the future. The discussion will focus on practical activities that require additional support to scale or start in an impactful way."

Alongside representatives of an Access Now project to find legal frameworks for Covid-19 track and trace apps, we will consider how the data rights landscape looks and what we can do to improve things.

I will argue that civil society actors and others need to keep finding ways to link up, research and communicate solutions to our technology predicaments.

Please comment below with your own ideas about how we can develop such collaboration and get in touch if you would like to support the yourData project in some way.

Save our NHS data

The UK government has snuck through a massive £23m NHS ‘data deal’ with controversial spy tech firm Palantir.

It gives this CIA-backed firm – whose spyware has been accused of creating ‘racist’ feedback loops in US policing – a major, long-term role in handling our personal health information, and in England's cherished NHS.

We believe that we, the public, should have a say about these lucrative deals before they happen, not after.

That’s why we’re bringing an urgent legal challenge: demanding public consultation on this massive deal. To do this we need to raise £30,000.

We must act now to stop government secrecy around these massive deals – and to make sure our personal health information and privacy rights are protected. ‘COVID cronyism’ and secrecy must end.

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