Tech power has gone bully-boy, part 2: as they shove apps, QR codes and their spying tool siblings onto us, why are the technologically unskilled more thuggish than tech insiders?


About these images: see part 1 on this topic — in which a top-ranking AI researcher took a question from the daughter of a former Chief Rabbi of Britain about whether we are powerless against coercive AI 

Is the chick wondering whether RSPB.org knows that the QR code in its call for participants in a wildlife survey could be hijacked, diverted and deployed for human tracking-and-profiling?

[ Part 1 is here. ]

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Discovering that the youngest of us treat apps like a digital pox, presumably because they pay more attention than their Generation X and Boomer parents do to the use of apps as spying and profiling tools will, after a second’s pause, surprise no one. Decades have passed since grownups turned their bright teenagers into family tech support departments.

Checking on this site’s indexing by search engines by typing in the header of my last post, I was pleased to find Bing persistently showcasing, for a virtual companion, a two year-old article on the Forbes site: ‘91% Of Us Hate Being Forced To Install Apps To Do Business, Costing Brands Billions’. This section of it was reassuring about the newest generation of adults:

[T]he younger we are, the more likely we are to give a brand the middle finger for requiring an app install. 87.1% of people from 18-24 have abandoned purchases for being required to install an app, compared to just under 70% for people in the 55 and over age category. 

“77.9% of mobile phone users say the mandatory app installation roadblock caused them to abandon at least one transaction in the last year […] Younger users are progressively more likely to abandon transactions if required to install an app to make a purchase, complete a sale or try a service.”

Perhaps: older people feel “that’s just how they do business,” whereas younger people are aware that services can be delivered over the web as well … and that apps have privacy implications.

… One good thing about apps being required for purchase?

It’s saving consumers billions of dollars.

30% of us saved over $100 in the last year because we stopped a purchase decision that required an app. Another 30% saved between $20 and $100. And almost 8% saved over $500, according to Heady.io.

Older people are still running most influential institutions — anything from the companies pressing us hardest to install their apps to idealistic non-profit organisations. But age alone is not a reliable guide to whether someone has correctly weighed the pros and cons of tracking and data-gathering software. Perhaps Amir Khan, an M.D. and president since last October of Britain’s RSPB.org  — Royal Society for the Protection of Birds — knows that using the QR code included in a print notice of this week’s crowd-sourced species count could put the privacy and security of participants at risk. But — perhaps he doesn’t.  

Judging by search results, no other high-profile mainstream publication is as enlightening about seemingly innocuous tracking tools as Forbes, which has a 55 year-old editor, Randall Lane. This is especially remarkable for anyone who remembers that for years, the magazine’s slogan was ‘The Capitalist’s Tool’. Media coverage of data collection and reselling is full of surprises. One newspaper on which many of us cosmopolites fondly imagined we could depend for protection from capitalist excess used to run excellent reports on commercial tracking and profiling, but stopped doing that without any announcement or explanation. It also appears to be an unrepentant hawker of personal facts about its readers. 

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