34th Chaos Communication Congress

»Social Cooling«
2017-12-27, 20:15–20:45, Saal Dijkstra

What does it mean to be free in a world where surveillance is the dominant business model? Behind the scenes databrokers are turning our data into thousands of scores. This digital reputation is increasingly influencing our chances to find a job, a loan or even a date. Researchers are pointing out that, as people become aware of this reputation economy, it is generating a culture where self-censorship and risk aversion are the new normal.

How do we deal with these chilling effects? I suggest we take the comparison of oil and data all the way: if oil leads to global warming, then data leads to Social Cooling.

What does it mean to be free in a world where surveillance is the dominant business model? More and more people are discovering that databrokers (a 200 billion dollar industry) are turning our data-trail into thousands of scores. This mostly invisible ‘digital reputation’ is starting to strongly effect our lives, influencing our chances to get a job, a cheap loan or even a nice date.

As awareness spreads people are changing their behavior; studies show a rise in self-censorship and a growing culture of risk-aversion. For example, after the Snowden revelations fewer people visit Wikipedia pages about subjects like terrorism. We see doctors hesitating to operate on patients because a death will lower their score. China is embracing it: in 2020 all Chinese citizens will receive a ‘social credit score’ that basically reflects how well behaved they are, and that will affect every part of their life.

This is the true cost of 'free': machine learning is mapping our weaknesses, and behavioral psychology is amplifying social pressure, creating powerful chilling effects and strong incentives to conform. I believe that as oil lead to Global Warming, data leads to Social Cooling. This comparison is not meant to scare, but to give us hope: our move away from oil offers us a valuable blueprint on how to deal with this issue. In this talk we'll go into the narratives we need. In a data-driven world, a good meme can be the best hack.