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Our digital footprint generates enormous value, but too much of it ends up in Big Tech silos
Humanity has never been so comprehensively recorded. Smartwatches capture our pulse in real time for a distant artificial intelligence (AI) to ponder the risks of heart disease. Bluetooth and GPS keep track of whether some of us shop at gourmet stores and linger in the candy aisle. Our likes and browsing hours on social media are harvested to predict our credit risk. Our search queries on shopping platforms are run through natural language processors to generate uniquely targeted ads whose unseen tethers subtly remold our tastes and habits.
The generation and collection of data on individual human beings has become a big part of the modern economy. And it generates enormous value. Big data and AI analytics are used in productivity-enhancing research and development. They can strengthen financial inclusion. During the pandemic, data on real-time movements of entire populations have informed policymakers about the impact of lockdowns. Contact tracing apps have notified individuals who have been in potentially dangerous proximity to people infected with COVID-19.
But just as data have helped us monitor, adapt, and respond to COVID-19, the pandemic has brought into […]