If you managed to grab The Times today you will see that our Director, Luke Vile, commented on an article  discussing big data/tech firms and Government regulation.

Full text as follows:

In August, Ms Rudd was dispatched to Silicon Valley, where the biggest tech giants roam, and attended the inaugural meeting of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism in San Francisco. “Extremists have sought to misuse your platforms to spread their hateful messages,” she said to delegates. “The responsibility for tackling this threat… lies with both governments and with the industry. We have a shared interest – we want to protect our citizens and keep the free and open internet we all love.”

At the forum, the home secretary highlighted that the UK’s Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit had been responsible for taking down 280,000 pieces of terrorist content since 2010 and had also deactivated millions of accounts. But is that enough, and does the government really have a meaningful strategy to limited and harness the power and data generated by the tech giants?

Not by a long chalk, according to Luke Vile of 2-sec, a London-headquartered cybersecurity consultancy. He would know as his organisation works with government departments and National Health Service trusts as well as private equity firms and smaller businesses.

There is no way a government department is going to be able to understand either the terminology or the sheer scale of the operations

“The fact is, and without apportioning any blame, there is no way a government department is going to be able to understand either the terminology or the sheer scale of the operations,” the cybersecurity operations director says. “They simply don’t have the resources or tech-savvy experts required to comprehend what it is they are looking at regulating. The government is massively behind the curve on this.

“There is no internal or external plan for what is an acceptable limit of data and the difficulty is these boundaries are being pushed back all the time. Because of that there is a frontier mentality; it is like the Wild West when it comes to data. The top tech companies are far too powerful. They are dictating how they are managed to the regulators, the public sector and governments.”

So how can the government improve this situation? “Firstly, they need to educate the public better and explain the downsides of metadata collection,” says Mr Vile. “The key to this lies in earlier collaboration with tech companies, though that is really difficult – the government is not finding out about potential problems until the products are off the shelf.

“Imagine if a car manufacturer designed, built and then sold a car that the government didn’t get its hands on until six months later to work out whether or not it is safe to drive. It would never happen. Data is an inert topic that doesn’t physically hurt anyone. As a knock-on effect, the job of the public sector is made much harder because, to continue the metaphor, by the time people are driving around in their cars they are reluctant to hand back the keys.”

The article by Oliver Pickup, Times journalist can be read in full here: https://www.raconteur.net/technology/tech-giants-are-called-to-account-on-extremist-material


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