Changing the paradigm
Finishing up the manuscript for this book in April 2020, things feel very different from when I first embarked on the project a year and a half ago. It can truly be said that, to adapt the language of Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, we are undergoing a change in paradigm with the scientist (and others operating in a spirit of scientific inquiry) afterwards ‘work[ing] in a different world’.1 Concerns continue to be voiced about the prospects of privacy in the face of business and government digital data practices. But they seem more nuanced than before. And the change has occurred in a remarkably short time. Even just a few months ago, a November 2019 Pew survey revealed that 81% of those in the US thought potential risks of data collection by companies about them outweighed the benefits, and 66% said the same about government data collection.2 I doubt they would say the same now in the midst of a pandemic where collating, analysing and sharing data seems the key to survival for much of the population.3 On the other hand, we still have the recent memory of what Politico’s Mark Scott described in December 2019 as ‘the shine coming off much of the tech world’ due to recent privacy breaches and other scandals.4 And in the early months of 2020 there continue to be public anxieties over privacy breaches, for instance the furore over video-meeting platform Zoom’s sale of data to Facebook,5 prompting attention...
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