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Saturday 30 August 2014

Young people give up Google and Facebook privacy 'because they haven't read 1984'

Sarah Knapton

Published 06/06/2014 | 19:41

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Young people willingly give-up their privacy on Google and Facebook because they have not read George Orwell’s ‘1984’ unlike previous generations, a leading academic has warned.

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Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at Sheffield University, said that large corporations were hovering up private information and modern generations did not realize it was wrong.

He said that older people who had grown up reading George Orwell’s 1984 about ‘Big Brother technology and ‘ authoritarianism’, were in a better position to resist the creeping erosion of privacy.

Professor Sharkey, speaking at Cheltenham Science Festival, said: “I’m 65, I don’t want to be targeted. I am very uncomfortable with it. It seems to me that our privacy is gradually being violated and eroded without us noticing.

“I am part of the generation which all read 1984 – I think we are less happy about giving up our privacy.

“But the younger generation aren’t really thinking about it. The services that Google and Facebook give us are so good that people are willing to trade off their privacy for them. If you grow up with that, that is what you know to like.”

Technology commentators have become increasingly concerned that Google has recently purchased a collection of artificial intelligence and robotics companies

They fear it will give the technology giant unlimited access to private information.

Google recently paid £1.9bn for Nest Labs, a firm which makes internet–connected heating systems, allowing people to control their thermostats from afar.

Although supporters ague that having greater control over home applications can only be beneficial, others are worried that it enables firms to collect data about energy use and living habits.

Google also spent £300m on Deep-Mind, a British artificial intelligence firm which specialises in quickly building up a profile of an individual based on their internet activity.

He said: ‘Google has a policy where they keep our entire history. They know far too much about us.

“At the moment it doesn’t seem harmful. But because governments can get hold of this information, they can monitor you, things might change quite dramatically.

“You give away that much information – you can now take little bits of data, put in a simple little algorithm, and it can put it all together and build up a big picture about us.”

He warned that soon Google would know ‘where you are all of the time.’

“The problem with any technology is that once it goes into the wild, once it starts picking up momentum and getting critical mass, we have no idea how it will be used, no idea. It is quite worrying,” he added.

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