#Infosec19 Interview: Jamie Bartlett, Senior Fellow, Demos & Bestselling Author

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Jamie Barlett is a senior fellow and former director of Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think-tank Demos. He is also a bestselling author whose work has explored the political and social impacts of technology, shining a light on how digital evolution has destabilized elements of modern democracy and privacy, and how the growth of online communities have resulted in huge rises of internet crime.

His book Radicals, published in 2017, examines the lives of innovators, disruptors, idealists and extremists who think society is broken, and believe they know how to fix it.

A highly-recognized public speaker, Bartlett regularly presents on a range of fascinating subjects and topics to audiences all around the world. At Infosecurity Europe 2019, he was one of the headline keynote speakers, sharing his insight on how technology is changing society and challenging the security of data, and Infosecurity spoke with him to learn more.

How is modern technology impacting and changing the society we live in today?

There is barely a single area of life that isn’t affected, and so it really depends which bit we’re talking about. The main and most obvious way is that information is being digitized – essentially everything is being turned into 1s and 0s. Turning information into digital data has huge ramifications in so many areas: it means our behavior, views and ideas can be collected on databases and used to predict our behaviors; it means everything we do can be recorded, edited, and shared – with great costs to our privacy. It means everyone can become a journalist – and simultaneously personalize their own media consumption. I could go on!

Is there too much focus and concern surrounding surveillance and privacy, or is society right to be worried about how data is monitored and used?

I think society is correct to be this worried. Not necessarily because of where we are now (and some of the fear and nervousness about, for example, how micro-targeting advertising is exaggerated) but because of where we will be in 20 years’ time. Computing power continues to get faster at a near exponential rate, and we are connecting a growing number of devices to the internet. So ask yourself: how might society look if we continue on the same path – and how could those technologies be misused by governments or corporations or individuals of the future? I think, when you take a longer-term perspective on these questions, it starts to look quite sensible to be worried.

Is there too much ‘hype’ surrounding the dark web and the types of nefarious activity so often associated with it?

Perhaps, yes. The dark net is very small – as are the number of daily users. You can find just as much bad stuff on the normal internet if you know where to look. Plus, the positive uses of the dark net (and there are many) tend to be ignored entirely. That said, the idea of heavily encrypted networks and decentralized online platforms is here to stay – and that will have some major long-term consequences.

How much is global democracy under threat due to hacking, fake news, viral content and other interference?

Our current form of democracy – modern representative nation state democracy – is potentially doomed, since it is not set up to deal with borderless digital technologies. However, democracy has always evolved to fit the technologies of the day since it is a multi-purpose system which reflects a basic human desire for individual liberty and solidarity. So I think democracy will survive, but not in its current form.

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