China is also at the forefront of a new wave of protectionism in the tech sector – Made in China 2025. This points to the same realisation that led to the Huawei scandal: governments realise that tech has massive security implications, and so are taking steps to limit its growth and proliferation. The EU passed legislation this year that limited foreign acquisition of tech start-ups in the continent, and the US is considering export controls on AI and VR technologies. 

What Will 2020 Bring?

Good question.

Though it’s always hard to predict the future, one thing seems certain: these debates are not going away, and they are more complex than ever before. 2020 is likely to bring new legislation in the US, perhaps even on a federal level, to give consumers privacy protection. It is also likely to see a huge increase in consumer-level privacy technologies such as VPNs, TOR, and secure email providers. 

There will also be deep and meaningful discussion on AI (will it mean the end of our jobs), Cloud (security), Digital transformation (versus bricks and mortar) and use of personal data in shaping the US.

It will also, hopefully, bring much more discussion of these issues. Though none appear amenable to simple solutions, the increased level of chatter in the mainstream media can only be a good thing. 

And in Australia

The Australian government has not been asleep at the wheel either. One could argue that it was Australia’s 5G research about Huawei that caught the eyes of the US legislature and the rest of the five/nine/fourteen eyes countries that share intelligence.

It has beefed up the Privacy Act 2019 to cover a huge range of personal issues – credit, medical financial and most importantly ‘data matching’ – building personal profiles from disparate sources. This is precisely what Facebook does to supplement its user profiles with thousands of on-line apps that gather location, preferences, search history, shopping – Bad Facebook.

On another front is its Digital Platform Inquiry which is ostensibly about a near-monopoly competition from Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google (FAANG) et al. over local news and content. But hidden in that on page 373 of the report is Chapter 7: Digital platforms and consumers.

It focusses on the key questions relevant to consumer protection. Are consumers well informed and can consumers make informed and free choices about how digital platforms collect, use and disclose their personal information and user data?

As ACCC Chairman Rod Simms (gotta love that straight-shooting guy) “The collection of user data is central to the business model of most advertiser-funded platforms.”

He adds that the ACCC’s view is that few consumers are fully informed of, fully understand, or effectively control, the scope of data collected and the bargain they make with digital platforms when they sign up for, or use, their services.

GadgetGuy’s take: The top tech Issues for the United States in 2019 really mean if the product is free, the product is you.

Sam’s opinion pieces are always well researched, well written and thought-provoking. His key message is that privacy and security issues will not go away fast. They will need a concerted effort by all governments to represent the people against big tech.

In short, expect this Digital Platform Inquiry to shake the very framework that allow the tech giants to legally and flagrantly abuse your privacy. Let’s see if it it can be tightened to the point where they have to change business models to operate lawfully or face the consequences. You can read Simms 42-page executive summary – its excellent.