Mark Zuckerberg has expressed his views on the future of technology during a 93-minute discussion with Yuval Noah Harari, author of “Sapiens” and “Homo Deus”. According to Facebook’s CEO, if the “leading” nations will demand the tech companies to store data locally, other less democratic countries could follow the example exposing the data to manipulation and misuses.
The video was released today as part of Zuckerberg’s personal challenge for 2019: holding public talks on technology and its future.
Data localization laws are already being enforced by the Chinese and Russian governments, however, the increasing concerns towards privacy protection have extended this trend to more democratic countries. India has increased localization of monetary transaction data, Germany requires localization of communication metadata.
The laws originate from the need to protect users’ data privacy and to limit the power of tech companies: it’s undeniable that in the era of AI-powered psychographics data is high on demand. Some countries could use the military and other means, to access the data and use it to increase surveillance and repression.
Zuckerberg declares himself worried by the values that he is laying down for the internet data:
“The most likely alternative to each country adopting something […] like GDPR, in my mind, is the authoritarian model, which is currently being spread, which says every company needs to store everyone’s data locally in data centers”.
“[…]If I’m a government, I can send my military there and get access to whatever data I want and take that for surveillance or military. I just think that that’s a really bad future. And that’s not the direction I want to see the world going. If a government can get access to your data, then it can identify who you are and go lock you up and hurt you and your family and cause real physical harm in ways that are just really deep.”
In this week’s earnings call Mark Zuckerberg has stated that he is prepared to face the risk of having to close down the social network in countries where he doesn’t feel to comply with data localization laws.
The 93-minute video covers several other topics. However, there is one big question to which Zuckerberg was not really able to answer.
As Yuval Harari asks Zuckerberg: “Is it still true in a world where we have the technology to hack human beings and manipulate them like never before that the customer is always right, that the voter knows best? Or have we gone past this point?”
In other words, can users be trusted to self-administer themselves in highly addiction-inducing cyberspace crowded with fake news, low-value viral videos and click bait or do they need to be subjected to rules enforced by authorities just as it happens in the real world?