On this episode of MarketScale’s Business Casual, hosts Tyler Kern and Voice of B2B Daniel Litwin discuss U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios’ remote conference call to some of the biggest players in tech, requesting their help in mapping out a response plan to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, what exactly is the White House asking of these Big Tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Cisco and Twitter?
According to Litwin and Kern, a variety of things, including helping to coordinate against misinformation around the virus, helping aid in medical research analysis, and also helping support the broader digital infrastructure that can enable the U.S. to track travelers as they fly, ensuring that we aren’t inadvertently increasing the spread of the coronavirus in our country.
With Big Tech often thought of as being the “bad guy”, the Trump administration’s request makes for an interesting dynamic, more or less placing these companies in the saddle of the white horse that will come in to slay the coronavirus dragon, thereby saving the day.
But this shift in dynamic raises many privacy concerns, especially when you consider we’ve seen a similar dynamic emerge in the wake of tragedy: the Patriot Act passed in response to the 9/11 tragedy. Highly-criticized and considered excessive and possibly unconstitutional by many, the Act expanded the government’s ability to gather surveillance as well as the collection and storage of U.S. citizens’ phone and internet metadata—data that communications companies were then required to hand over.
With Twitter already stating they may start flagging tweets that are “fake news,” Litwin asked, “Who ends up being the determinant of ‘is this fake, is this not’? Who is the truthbearer up in the ivory tower? That kind of stuff is incredibly important to think about.” He further questioned, “And do we want to hand over the reins of what is appropriate and what isn’t appropriate in the public’s fear to Big Tech—companies that already face a lack of scrutiny in their privacy handlings and mishandlings?”
Listen to the podcast now as Litwin and Kern discuss and question other possible scenarios that may stem from the government’s request of Big Tech for their aid in curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
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