I recently noticed a frightening trend with certain founders in the tech industry.
–> Have a great idea. Get a few key people to join you and build it. Launch the product and raise money from investors. Experience massive success. Raise more money. Gain hundreds of millions of users. Raise billions of dollars and fight off regulators. Have unfiltered access to billions of people’s data. Exploit it. Believe you are the second coming of a God. Act like an uncaring, immoral capitalist. Care only about your wealth and not what you are doing to everyday citizens. And so on…
With the recent Uber misteps and observing the resulting outrage which ensued, it has come to my attention that we, as an industry, need to take a long look in the mirror. Founders need to take full consideration in how they are running their company, the culture they are creating, the data they are generating, and the ultimate consequences of their actions.
I hope Uber realizes they are doing to their users exactly what they were furious (I assume) about the government doing to them as citizens when the Snowden files were revealed last year.
We all need to understand we are standing at an unprecedented time in the history of business and technology. Everyday Joes now have the opportunity to create an app or platform that one day might just become indispensable to mankind. With its use, Joe will collect billions upon billions of data points on everyday citizens – like where they are currently, where they are going, who they talk to, what they typed, to whom, what they viewed on their phones, whom they connected with socially, etc.. With all this happening, Joe will find himself directly in the middle of our society, holding a treasure trove of personal data and a devil on his shoulder just waiting for the right time to temp him into exploiting it.
I mean, it’s like big brother!
But surprisingly it ain’t the government doing these things. Imagine what Facebook knows about you. Couple that with your Uber or Lyft usage data. Toss in your twitter clicks, Instagram photos, Gmail history and Google Chrome browser history.
We are doing this to ourselves. We are the ones creating this new world of massive data collection which is resulting in unprecedented spying, snooping, breaches of security, cloud hacks and the like.
This is your fault. And mine. It’s all of our faults. All in the name of making more money.
I am not here to end the data analysis, in fact I believe in it and when done correctly it makes for a better end user experience. I also know data collection is only going to get more prevalent with the expansion of categories like the Internet of Things and connected homes.
Yet, I am urging us to start thinking about things using a different filter, or scope of perspective. Start asking yourself these questions:
Recognizing all possible data about myself and every other person is now being collected, how to I structure my platform to preserve mankind and the humanity inherent within our society?
How do balance personalization of my technology with personal security of my users?
How do I proceed when I know I CAN do something but unsure if I SHOULD do something?
Where’s my “do not cross line?”
How can we best usher in a new era of technology applications where security is inherent within the structure of the product, not an afterthought when plugging holes after launch?
How do I shift my perspective from making the most money possible with my application towards making the world a better, more secure and protected society?
Please start thinking about these questions and more… It’s time we call a spade a spade – WE are the ones creating the exact surveillance society we were deathly afraid of growing up. We just thought it would be the Big Bad Government or another foreign country, not ourselves.
Please understand hubris will sink anyone who thinks they are immune to it. You – as a founder and someone desperately wanting to change the world – can now no doubt do just that. You and your technology can alter the history of humans here on earth. Just make sure you know what change you are putting in place.