Web Summit 2019: ‘Improve digital literacy’ to protect your data, says Brittany Kaiser

Improving digital literacy is key to protecting your online data from being exploited, whistleblower Brittany Kaiser told the Web Summit in Lisbon. Kaiser, a former employee at Cambridge Analytica, shot to prominence with the emergence of Netflix documentary, The Great Hack.

It claimed British firm Cambridge Analytica harvested data from millions of Facebook users via a “personality” questionnaire. This data was used to influence Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign and the campaign of Leave.EU, which was pivotal in swinging the Brexit referendum.

“One of the biggest problems with data targeting is that we do not have digital literacy, a lot of us do not understand the types of technologies that we need to use to protect ourselves,” said Kaiser. “I’m sorry to tell you but if you had a Facebook profile before April 2015, you can’t get your privacy back, that data has already been bought and sold and traded around the world, and there’s no way out of the millions of databases that it’s probably on.”

Kaiser said she began using data in political communication in 2007 while working for Barack Obama’s campaign. But it was not until she began at Cambridge Analytica that saw another way this data could be used. “I got a presentation from my colleagues that worked on the Trump campaign and I saw the way data was used to target people,” she said.

Edward Snowden addressed the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, this evening (November 4). Brittany Kaiser is slated to address the summit later this week. Snowden, a former NSA analyst, spoke via live link from Russia, who granted him temporary asylum after he released classified information from the US’ National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013.

Snowden’s leaks saw The Guardian newspaper report that intelligence services in the US and UK were tapping into the servers of internet firms to track the online communications of their citizens. ‘People being exploited’ “What do you do when the most powerful institutions in society have become the least accountable to society?” Snowden asked as he spoke about his decision to reveal information about government surveillance.

Snowden’s comments primarily centred around data privacy and the future of the internet. He called the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) a good start but said it should be about data collection rather than protection. In Snowden’s view, the basic system of connectivity to the internet needs to be changed. “It is not data that is being exploited, it is people that are being exploited,” Snowden argued, insisting that all the browsers and service providers are institutions of power that people should not trust.

The way we sleep, eat and retreat from the world around us is poised for significant transformation, David Eun, Samsung’s Chief Innovation Officer, told this week at Web Summit.

Eun presented a sketch of Samsung’s vision for the house of the future. The aim is to foster experiences on a foundation of technology and innovation, he said, “the likes of which we have never seen before.” With the advent of 5G, the percentage of connected devices in the home will continue to grow, “and in the near future, the question won’t be how many devices are connected. The question will actually be, how many devices are not connected.”

The use of voice assistants is forecast to triple In the future, “it’s conceivable that almost every device and appliance will have voice assistants built into them,” he says. “There will be around 8 billion voice assistants devices by 2023.”

Kitchen of 2025 no longer ‘just a kitchen ‘- Kitchens will become “an intelligent place that will provide families “the meal planning and preparation to enable a healthier and happier lifestyle,” he said. “They will become your nutritionist, your personal chef, and your shopping assistant” (Read more here)


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