“The Future is Private”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard hype-inducing language at a tech conference — whether it’s about artificial intelligence or the newest mobile camera. Usually, I try to disregard this fluff when I watch the 5-minute summary videos. But when I heard Mark Zuckerberg prophesize this forthcoming trend about privacy at the most recent F8 conference, it didn’t sit well in my stomach.

Does our society suddenly care more about privacy now than it did before? Should we put privacy in the same basket as other technology trends?

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Source: Engadget

Later in the conference, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would focus more on “private” features such as groups, events, messaging, and stories — emphasizing security features like end-to-end encryption. Beyond Facebook, other tech companies such as Google are presenting new privacy tools in their applications¹. I’ve always considered privacy an essential ingredient in technology — so much so that it should be embedded without any tech conference bragging. And for a while, no one did brag about it. So why is it currently being treated as an upcoming trend? …

Almost every day I’m hit with a new “enviro-stat” (yes there’s a name for them now). Toilet paper kills 27,000 trees per day. Two-thirds of the great barrier reef is disappearing. While I’m sure that these fun facts are relevant, I often find them unrelatable, inconceivable, and not really that fun. Moreover, as I learn more about statistics, I begin to question the hidden process behind these numbers. So I decided to make my own enviro-stat about Berkeley students and light bulbs.

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Credit: luxreview.com

This semester, I’ve had the opportunity to lead the instruction of a course within the Energy and Resources Group of UC Berkeley — ERG 98: Sustainable Energy for a Greener Tomorrow. In this optimistically titled class, my colleague Elizabeth and I teach 30 students about the foundations of energy and the environment — from kilowatts vs. kilowatt-hours to the social injustices of climate change. Then, we host guest speakers from sustainable companies, such as Tesla and Volta Charging, as well as academics, such as researchers in sustainable transportation behavior.

It seems like every app is tracking us these days. Facebook analyzes user activity to predict their political affiliation. Waze aggregates user location data to estimate traffic patterns. Almost every day a new fitness app is released that tracks user movement to promote a more healthy lifestyle.

While some data collection may be questionable, it is clear that we’ve entered an era in which more people are able and willing to share their information with friends, organizations, and the world. Often, we hear stories of how companies use these data to optimize ad placement and increase conversions to other websites, apps, and products. …


John Leyden

I’m an optimistic human who enjoys writing, adventures, and other optimistic humans. johnleyden.com

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