Friday, July 11, 2014

Are British Airways and Facebook taking tech and gadget development too far?

Gadget lovers across the world have been met with some interesting – and potentially shocking – headlines lately; increasing the focus on this thriving industry.

To start with, Facebook has been publicly criticised for what The Guardian has reported as a ‘breach of ethical guidelines’ after they admitted they had undertaken an investigation into the effect social media posts can have on our moods – manipulating the news feeds of more than 700,000 users to see if and how it affected them.

In a similar story, British Airways has been the highlight of a post on The Drum when discussing the testing of the brand’s latest gadget: a ‘happiness blanket’. This uses neuro-sensors to measure brainwaves and can determine when passengers feel happiest; thus allowing the airline to target their services (such as in-flight entertainment and meals) more effectively.

Although both of these stories reflect on the huge progress made in the tech industry over recent years, it has to be asked whether they have gone a little too far this time.

Privacy and security concerns

The most important thing to consider is that, for some, these developments are an invasion of privacy. Gadgets and electronics are widely reported as dominating many aspects of our daily lives and not everyone will be pleased to see them taking control of yet another area.

Additionally, while Facebook and British Airways are collecting and using this data to breed positive results, there are those who may take an alternative approach.

Knowledge is power

Facebook also divided opinions by conducting its research behind the backs of those involved. Although there are arguments that publicising the study before its completion could have skewed the results (with users looking for specific features), the truth remains that Facebook studied individuals without informed consent – thus going against most ethical guidelines.

It’s therefore only understandable that some users would react to this by questioning the actions of the firm involved.

Protecting consumers

Privacy and security are top concerns in the digital world – you need only consider the importance of software escrow for evidence of that – and this means developers are charged with safeguarding these aspects all times.

While software escrow is a simple solution to those who want to safeguard their interests and the interests of their company when using third-party software or allowing other parties to use their own software, there is currently little security measures to govern the research being undertaken by the likes of Facebook and British Airways.

Although their surveys and current focuses provide plenty of food for thought for the industry, it seems likely that great control will be needed if the public are to get on board.

The possibilities and results are undoubtedly positive … it’s just the execution which needs a little work!

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