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36 replies, 7 voices Last updated by  Stefania Tibiletti 2 months, 3 weeks ago
  • Andrea Zuccotto

    Hi Stefania! Very nice to hear from you, and what a Topic you have introduced!

    First of all, the article presents this interesting analogy: in fact both of these two industries have defined new standards but in my opinion data is turning out to be even more important with respect to oil. In these past recent years the abuse of personal data by tech giants draw a lot of attention and it let no shortage of criticism from the public. It is clear that a debate on data would touch many different topics and would need a lot of time to address all of them properly but I’ll try to first take a closer look to what we are talking about.

    Oil is a scarce resource and it exist in a limited amount in nature. It is used in a vast number of industries, for medicines, plastics, fertilizers and more importantly to generate power. Of course it is and has been fundamental for the automotive industry throughout the 20th century until now.

    Data in the other hand is not scarce, is limitless and most importantly it only increases with time. While oil is a resource that we use data is instead some kind of asset that represents us very intimately: it is not something we just use but rather something we are. So from here it is clear why lots of concerns have been raised and why companies like google, having the tech and the expertise, are considered dangerous to some extent. They can collect and analyze massive amounts of data and then perform big data analysis which is, as you already said, an incredible tool not only for predicting trends but potentially also for influencing people. Of course this can be an extremely dangerous problem that requires to be addressed. In addiction to this I found this recent survey of PWC suggesting data as the “most valuable” a company would like to harvest in 2019 (here it is the link).

    Of course as @michelebaldo said it is important that companies of this size help the global community by paying the right amount of taxes, while so far there have been many occasions proving this to be not true, for instance with Google exploiting tax loopholes in Ireland (https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/news/google-ireland-pays-171m-tax-as-sales-hit-record-32bn-37560617.html). I agree with you when you say that data has to be taxed: it is necessary to find a way to transfer the generated wealth back to the community. But all these problems are probably enhanced by the fact that this new era of digital data science is still relatively new and still regulations have to fully adapt to these new standards. This in my opinion is a pattern that shows up every time some new technology becomes widespread and I think in the end will be the same also this time. It is still possible that new technologies will come into play: in this case maybe blockchain will be an opportunity, creating some sort of distributed digital trust that will enable users to get paid every time their data will be harvested.

    As regards taxes on automation and robots I would consider this as a topic on its own, different from data, but for sure a very significant one. Of course we have to start to think about what we will do once the vast majority of manufacturing jobs will be taken by robots. At this day it is not possible to have a solution but as time goes by it will continue to grow bigger, I personally think that some new education patterns will be developed but I can’t really imagine more at the moment.

    Regarding oil vs data I think it could be interesting to compare the companies involved and maybe draw some conclusions about the question pose in the article: do we need this dominance to be broken apart? First of all Standard Oil’s size at the time was really concerning for the US congress and it didn’t really have competition any more. Today of course we have this really big tech firms but they are not a single company and we have many occasion where they compete against each other, for instance Google Circles vs Facebook, Google search engine vs Bing, Alexa vs Google Assistant but also many others. Moreover we have to remember that a reshuffle is still possible, new companies can join the competition coming with new technologies in an unpredictable manner: for instance after the splitting of Standard Oil in 1911 we have seen many new countries discovering massive oil fields and become the world leaders in oil extraction.

    The last topic I would like to touch regards the Chinese counterparts of this tech firms. Even if sometimes we are not pleased with our laws and regulations and tend to consider them a little restricting we should take a look to what happens in a country where the legislation is much less severe. Last week I found myself reading this  article. I think it remarks the huge risks we undertake when a centralized autority can use data in this way and again it reminds of the importance of the topic.

    Andrea Zuccotto

    Hi Marcus! I saw that we ended up talking about a similar topic.

    Well, of course these technologies would have some benefits on our society but on the other hand I can’t avoid thinking about the risks. In general centralized systems like China tend to be more efficient with respect to decentralized and distributed ones, let’s consider the effectiveness and the speed of the chinese goverments to create an EV legislation out of nowhere while here in Italy we have very long iters even for the less important laws, but this centrlized system works only if the systems is deeply trusted by everybody, and this in general is not true, and recalling the article I suggested in the previous post it is really easy to see why. So maybe one possible solution could be to create some sort of decentralized digital database where some information obtained about every one of us can be accessible but firmly restricting the access to our identity. Maybe in the future something similar will be done with some blockchain based technology. Let’s think for instance to what happens with blockchain adresses: they are public, so evreryone knows how much bitcoins or other currencies are associated to them, while the identity of the owner is unknown.

    Let me know what you think!

    Michele Baldo

    Great thoughts @andreazuccotto , I particularly liked the discussion about oil and data.

    I’ve read the article suggested by Stefania about Amazon Alexa and I was astounded. I think what’s described in the article is not compatible with GDPR. The problem is not recording anonymous pieces of audio to train the algorithm, that’s okay. But for doing so, companies must have the consent from users, who should be aware of it. Instead, in the article they say that Alexa is recording even if the user disable the option in privacy settings that allows Alexa to use their voice recordings for the development of new features. Furthermore the recordings are not anonymous (Alexa reviewers are associated with an account number, as well as the user’s first name and the device’s serial number) and most users are not aware of it, because Amazon, in its marketing and privacy policy materials, doesn’t explicitly say humans are listening to recordings of some conversations picked up by Alexa.

    Recordings are important to improve voice assistants, but companies should be clear with the users about how their data are utilized and if a user choose to don’t allow recording to be sent to the company, the company have to provide an option in privacy settings that allow the user to do it.

    I think the solution could be the one proposed by Google. As the article say: “At Google, some reviewers can access some audio snippets from its Assistant to help train and improve the product, but it’s not associated with any personally identifiable information and the audio is distorted, the company says.”

    In conclusion users should be able to have full control on their data (according to GDPR). Thus, privacy settings must allow the user to change at any time their options and be able to have really control on which data are recorded and which aren’t. Moreover all recordings have to be collected in complete anonymity.

    Stefania Tibiletti

    Hi Guys,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Here I have the last two articles:



    Do not forget that you can add information from other sources, also changing the topic and asking questions to your colleagues.



    Deadline: April 30th at midnight  (04/30/2019 – 12am CEST)

    You have time until midnight on Tuesday 30th April to send me your resume via email ( stefania.tibiletti@gmail.com ) in order to confirm your willingness to participate at the Tour. The resume must be in American format – 1 page – and attached you have a template that might help you. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

    Have a nice weekend.

    Andrea Zuccotto

    Hi Stefania, thanks for introducing me to the GDPR, I didn’t really know it before, and also thank you @michelebaldo, I’m happy you enjoyed my oil vs data comparison!

    I read the articles you proposed, and I think they raise some interesting warnings: first of all with Amazon Echo. Well, I would being annoyed if I knew my voice have been recorded without my consent, while in the article it reported that “people who (deny the consent) opt out of that program might still have their recordings analyzed by hand over the regular course of the review process”. I personally can’t find the reason why Amazon would do that, maybe is just in the case they run out of data provided with consent but I still consider that a little too undue. Of course, as again @michelebaldo pointed out, there is nothing wrong in training an algorithm but companies must be told to be crystal clear about their data policies and what they do with the conversations they harvest. Maybe most of the user still are not sensible enough on this kind of issues but this could also help us understand the growing distrust with respect to said companies, just as @michelebaldo and @marcusvukoejvic discussed in some previous posts.

    But then there is something else to consider: now we have the tools to catch some useful information that can be used to improve safety or maybe even to prevent crimes: as the article says some workers for example believed to have picked up a sexual assault, or also a kid looking for help. With Echo it could be easier to get this people some help if only the assistant could provide real time assistance. The big question in my opinion is this one: “Is it correct to use this data for prevention or safety and if the answer is yes, up to what extent?”. This is indeed a really tough one to be answered, but I collected some material to help contextualizing the topic. For example I saw this video about some foreigners working in Shenzen: one of them was recognized with some security camera walking jaywalking a street crossing and was fined on its WeChat some instants later, having its money directly taken from his balance without even an authorization. I really suggest you to see the video and try to imagine these kind of things happening to us, let me know what you think. Of course it would also have some benefits, for instance also in Shenzen face recognition has almost cleared the risked of home invasions that were very common back in the day. In this case I think the European GDPR is here exactly to create laws to protect the most vulnerable subjects and avoid situations that are at the moment taking place in some other countries, moreover it helps creating a right environment for European companies by securing data certification and quality, as it is explained in this interesting article I found https://www.agendadigitale.eu/sicurezza/perche-il-gdpr-servira-alle-aziende-a-crescere-innovare/ .

    Another really interesting article related to the previous and also to the GDPR and data is about 5G and Huawei: in this article the main question is: “If the Chinese Government asks Huawei to give data coming from European countries harvested with 5G infrastructures, can they refuse to do that? ”. Well, surprisingly the Chinese invoked for a new GDPR regulation in order to cancel out these warnings coming from the US: in my opinion this gives even more credit to the european regulations, making them the standard to built this new EU-China cooperation. I hope I was clear with my discussion, let me know your thoughts about that!

    Michele Baldo

    I absolutely agree with you @andreazuccotto : GDPR should be the new standard and it should be adopted not only by Europe but also by other countries. In particular by USA and China where most of tech companies are and where most of the technology is assembled. Europe is giving a great example and human rights are our priority.

    Privacy and security are not an extra feature of a digital service, but data protection and ownership of ourselves data should be given for granted in any digital product and service.

    Stefania Tibiletti

    Hi Guys,
    Here we are!

    The eligibility for the Silicon Valley Study Tour 2018

    1. Andrea Zuccotto
    2. Marcus Vukojevic
    3. Michele Baldo


    For more info about the possibility to have a sponsorship from the University, please refer to Prof. Alessandro Rossi.

    If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact me!

    Have a nice week


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