I’m the founder of Cliqz, a browser company in Germany that focuses on browser with a lot of privacy features. I’ve also been involved in many, many companies in Germany over the last 20 years.
Do users really care about data transparency? And companies?
I think that in this day and age, with the new features coming out, etc. normal people do not have the intuitions of what’s going on. It’s not like going to a shop and then you have the feeling that the shop owner knows that you’ve bought bananas and you know that’s an information that you’re okay on sharing. People do not have these intuitions online anymore. It’s very, very difficult to figure out what’s going on behind the scenes and it’s very important to have tools that allow you to see what’s going on. I think companies must care about users. I don’t think you can actually build a company and remain successful without caring about users.
Do they care about transparency? That is a very tricky question. If we could only solve the problem of making mistakes in breaching people’s privacy, that would already be a huge step forward. Most people do not actually do these things in order to hurt people. We have to develop as a society a common understanding of what is okay and what is not and typically companies do follow the rules. And transparency is the first step towards that, because if you become aware of what you are doing I think it’s easier to stop them than if you’re not aware of it. I think that the fact that very, very few companies own most of the data and have virtually no interest to get off that train because it’s been very, very profitable for them and has made them very successful. And I believe over time they have developed an idealism that says actually “it’s better for us to know all of your data because it’s safer in our company than it is in your house”. And that it’s a very problematic way of thinking. And so anti competition is probably one of the worst trend in transparency.
I think companies must care about users. I don’t think you can actually build a company and remain successful without caring about users.
Which are your current projects involving data privacy and transparency?
Basically, what we do is we build a browser that it’s essentially a user agent. It’s supposed to represent the user in the Internet and we have decided to essentially really play this role of an agent and to make sure that whatever we believe is correct, we implement it for users to protect them against whatever is going on. So, for example we have a product called Ghostery, which has just recently been relaunched, and in there we have very strong defaults and we believe for example that most third-party trackers have not received consent and therefore they should not receive unique identifiers. And we enforce that using Artificial intelligence to detect whether something can be used as an identifier and then basically more or less randomizing them.
What do you think of the data transparency lab?
Well it’s the first time that I attend the conference, but I just looked at the projects that they were presenting, and I really enjoyed the grants or the projects that were given grants this year. So, I think it’s very nice to that you guys are there.