Read More: The Conversation
After decades of unbridled enthusiasm – bordering on addiction – about all things digital, the public may be losing trust in technology. Online information isn’t reliable, whether it appears in the form of news, search results or user reviews. Social media, in particular, is vulnerable to manipulation by hackers or foreign powers. Personal data isn’t necessarily private. And people are increasingly worried about automation and artificial intelligence taking humans’ jobs. Yet, around the world, people are both increasingly dependent on, and distrustful of, digital technology. They don’t behave as if they mistrust technology. Instead, people are using technological tools more intensively in all aspects of daily life. In recent research on digital trust in 42 countries (a collaboration between Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where I work, and Mastercard), my colleagues and I found that this paradox is a global phenomenon. If today’s technology giants don’t do anything to address this unease in an environment of growing dependence, people might start looking for more trustworthy companies and systems to use. Then Silicon Valley’s powerhouses could see their business boom go bust. Economic power Some of the concerns have to do with how big a role the technology companies and their products play in people’s lives. U.S. residents already spend 10 hours a day in front of a screen of some kind. One in 5 Americans say they are online “almost constantly.” The tech companies have enormous reach and power. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month. Ninety percent of search queries worldwide go through Google. Chinese e-retailer, Alibaba, organizes the biggest shopping event worldwide every year on Nov. 11, which this year brought in US$25.3 billion in revenue, more than twice what U.S. retailers sold between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday last year.