We live in a digital world that was unimaginable 50 years ago. Technology now permeates every facet of life, and its sudden disappearance – such as a drained battery or loss of the internet – can wreak havoc on a day. The products of companies like Samsung and Google make everyday tasks easier, but is the gadgetry around us making the world a safer place?
Automakers incorporate technology into car designs to increase safety with results that are often great. Reversing cameras and blind spot detection systems have been so effective in accident prevention that the US is making them mandatory on all new vehicles from 2018. However, a recent article in the Telegraph points out that some in-car safety systems can be difficult to use and prove more distracting to drivers than using hand-held mobiles.
It’s counterintuitive that something designed for the public’s wellbeing might actually increase risk, but this conundrum is at the core of discussions regarding Apple’s release of iOS 8 for mobile devices. The operating system features encryption software so advanced that not even Apple can access user data. Undoubtedly, many were pleased by this news and agreed with the sentiments of the tech giant’s CEO Tim Cook, “…A great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.”
Although used as a selling point by Apple, the ironclad encryption hasn’t been welcome news to everyone – particularly law enforcement agencies. FBI Director James Comey said he was confounded that companies would “market something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.” Others go further, saying the iPhone will become the mobile of choice for criminals and terrorists, signalling that raising personal privacy will lower societal safety.
Mobile data has been a modern magnifying glass for today’s sleuths, but increased encryption takes it from their hands and gives it to the public as a shield. Does this mean that security and privacy are on opposite sides of a spectrum? If so, which should be the priority for technological development?
Such questions are difficult to answer but necessary to consider for tech companies. If a product is manipulated or malfunctions to become a malevolent force, its manufacturer can be placed in hot water.
Regardless of whether privacy or safety is made the chief objective, the underlying moral from a PR perspective is the same: preventative action is much more effective than repair efforts. The best strategy involves foresight, testing, and exhaustive consideration of all possible negative outcomes before a product is released. This can be a hefty task, but it ensures that new technology optimally contributes to society and also secures the future welfare of the company itself.