Trusting Technology Titans With Our Information

By Gillian Christie

Will large technology companies witness a collapse in public trust in 2015? Gillian Tett, US Managing Editor of the Financial Times, considered the question in her article last week titled “Silicon Valley is warned self-regulation will spark bank-style collapse in trust”.

Tett indicates that technology companies may suffer severe reputational risks similar to banks in recent years if they fail to change their approach to policy. Despite a majority of individuals being open to sharing their data for research purposes, technology companies’ existing self-regulation is insufficient to suppress public concerns like privacy and confidentiality. Banks had adopted a similar tactic prior to the financial crisis, which eventually resulted in political backlash, notes Tett.

Opposition to large technology companies is mounting, particularly in Europe where privacy concerns run high. One example is the European Parliament’s push to break apart technology companies, believing that many operate as monopolies that are harming European consumers.  Across the continent, Google controls approximately 90% of all web searches. In November 2014, the European Parliament voted to separate Google’s search engine operations from its commercial business. While the vote is a non-binding resolution, the European Parliament hopes it will support the European Commission’s final decision – which has legal ramifications.

The breakup of Google operates with a backdrop focused on the European Union’s court ruling that European consumers should have the right to be forgotten. So far, Google has removed 296,000 of 740,000 requests to erase histories. Questions now emerge on the extent to which these policies should be adopted in the United States.

With large technology companies amassing enormous amounts of consumer data (including health information), innovative solutions must be discussed, developed, and implemented. As an initial step, the Vitality Institute is collaborating with the Institute of Medicine to host a workshop on the ethical, legal, and social implications of personalized health technology in Spring, 2015. Outputs from the workshop will inform a set of responsibility guidelines for personalized health technology.


Are you concerned about how companies are using your data? Do you think your company is doing it right? If so, what does that mean to you?

Image Credit: Tech Week Europe


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