02/11/2023 Alexander

Understanding the influence of big tech on data privacy

Bill Mew, a distinguished expert in the realms of privacy and data protection, speaks with Paweł Kuskowski about the influence of big tech, government surveillance and offers a comprehensive look into the complexities of the modern data landscape. Recognized for his contributions at the Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime, Mew’s insights into the challenges posed by big tech companies and his dual role as both a troublemaker for big tech and troubleshooter for someone whose data privacy has been breached have made him a respected voice in the crypto compliance space. He is also a Board Member and Cyber ambassador for the International Association of Risk and Crisis Communication.

With the increasing influence of big tech companies and the government’s role in data surveillance, blurred lines between private and public data storage raise pressing concerns about individual privacy. Bill says that we need to define what we mean by privacy and what we think is reasonable because financial, health, criminal and driving records are sensitive data. However, by law, this type of data is required to be shared with the government. There is also the question of who the government shares this data with and if you would trust them. With the emergence of transformative technologies like cryptocurrencies and Web3, the implications for data privacy are vast and still unfolding.

The discussion then shifted to the contrasting data privacy approaches of the European Union (EU) and the United States (US). While the EU emphasizes individual privacy through its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the US leans towards national security, as evidenced by the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance activities which include issuing secret warrants. The US approach runs afoul of EU’s GDPR laws because the process does not have adequate judicial supervision and no redress and appeals process. This divergence in perspectives is further complicated by the CLOUD Act, which allows US federal law enforcement to compel US-based technology companies via warrant or subpoena to provide requested data stored on servers regardless of whether the data are stored in the U.S. or on foreign soil, and underscores the global challenges of establishing a unified approach to data privacy. In effect, this means that if the NSA wants to surveil you, they can just issue a secret warrant to one of the big companies like Facebook or Amazon without your knowledge and get your data even if your data is stored on an EU server.

Bill also outlines the changing power dynamics in the world of data. Historically, governments held the upper hand when technology was well understood so it was straightforward for governments to set the rules and tax tech companies. However, this balance of power is tilting with tech companies now taking the lead. Today, taxation has been distorted by profits moving offshore and technology has advanced to such a level that even people in the tech industry struggle to understand them.
The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can also introduce complexities with the prospect of job automation potentially resulting in loss of taxable income for governments. There will also be challenges involved in regulating such advanced technology. The book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” was highlighted as a resource, shedding light on the evolving relationship between big tech and society.


Watch the whole discussion:


The duo also delved into the practicalities of personal data sharing. In an age where every click and scroll is monitored, the importance of judicious data sharing cannot be overstated. Pawel’s anecdote about crypto conference attendees compromising their privacy for free beer aptly illustrated the multifaceted nature of the privacy debate.

Generational shifts in attitudes towards data privacy also came to the fore. The younger generation’s more relaxed stance, especially concerning biometrics and facial recognition, presents both opportunities and challenges. The immediacy of targeted advertising, potential legal repercussions of data breaches, and the reliability of data records further complicate the landscape.

In concluding their discussion, Bill Mew articulated his concerns about the future of data privacy. He emphasized the urgent need for increased awareness and advocacy. Interestingly, he pointed out that while individual data rights are crucial, governments are primarily concerned with taxation, especially given tech companies’ adeptness at tax avoidance.

In essence, the conversation between Paweł Kuskowski and Bill Mew on the Crypto Compliance Podcast offers a profound exploration of the intricacies of data privacy in the modern age. As technology continues its relentless march forward, understanding and advocating for data rights becomes an imperative for all.