Balancing Progress And Privacy In The Tech Industry

Danielle Homer

Even as technology changes the world around us, it faces challenges along the way. Technology is tied to important aspects of our lives, such as banking and private communication. This creates the need to balance progress with security measures that protect our information. Although technological advances offer exciting possibilities to improve our world, we need to collectively address the challenges of technology and how these could negatively affect our lives.

Balancing privacy and progress

Jeff Howell, vice president of the high-tech industry business unit at SAP, briefly discussed the current state and future of high tech in a S.M.A.C. Talk Technology podcast. Howell predicted that the next decade will see more of a focus on “creating a balance between protecting the privacy of the individuals and also protecting the enterprise.”

Many consumers are already worried about the reach of technological innovations. It’s important for organizations to realize that their business is dependent on human customers and clients. These companies need to put the main focus on relationships and maintaining trust, said Daniel Burrus in Burrus Research. If organizations push the boundaries too far without considering the consumer’s privacy and security, they risk their consumer relationships, and ultimately, their profits.

In addition to achieving public trust, Howell explained, high-tech businesses face the challenge of following regulations. In 2017, we saw numerous regulatory problems affecting the industry. One example is the European Commission’s antitrust allegations against Google. And this year, the European Union will need to ensure compliance with the General Data Privacy Regulations (GDPR), designed to protect consumers’ privacy.

Improving our lives through technology

Of course, any discussion of the tech industry’s future includes exciting possibilities being developed. Howell is interested in the potential of machine learning applications, which move beyond the hard-coded logic of the past. He said that code developed this way has the potential to be more affordable, higher-quality, and safer. While this capability is on the horizon, however, we’re not quite there yet. Howell said, “Right now we’re using machine learning to basically make a better decision with the data that we have, but what if you actually used a machine to write the code?”

This concept holds great potential. In New Scientist, Matt Reynolds explained that people without coding knowledge could use machine learning to write the code for them; in effect, they could tell the system their idea and the system could build the program. This could reduce overall time and costs while also improving quality.

Another way the industry is moving forward is by using hardware-as-a-service in response to commoditization concerns. In Techcrunch, Ajay Kulkarni noted that this model could work well in today’s world, where hardware depreciates quickly and people increasingly strive to simplify their lives. This model uses the same idea as software-as-a-service: Consumers pay for a service and use the hardware as part of the package. Kulkarni offered the example of smart-home company Vivint, which sells plans for home services with smart locks, sensors, and thermostats included. In another example, Microsoft charges a monthly amount for business customers to use a Microsoft Surface computer, with hardware upgrades and support included.

Using technology to improve security

In many ways, technology creates safer methods and eliminates vulnerabilities. For example, while blockchain has been used by financial technology, it also has applications in the high-tech industry. Howell described how blockchain technology could address counterfeit semiconductor chips by putting a unique cypher code on each chip that a global ledger would track. Blockchain could also have additional use cases in the industry, including validating and verifying data.

Artificial intelligence (AI) also has the potential to create a safer world. In a discussion about this emerging technology, podcast hosts Daniel Newman and Jeff Howell speculated about its future applications. Howell noted that AI has been a goal since the beginning of computing, and that thanks to the amount and the quality of the data we now collect and store, the technology is started to see some practical applications. Howell said, “I think with sensor technology and ERP, there’s a lot of other sources of data that we now can rely on to do some cool stuff with AI.”

As AI takes off, it could address some of the human error that now creates problems in technology. In an article in Information Age, Nick Ismail noted, “There is now a need to focus on developing AI that talks not to humans but directly to computer programs, creating software that codes, edits, and tests itself.” Ai could create safer software that is more difficult to attack. Ismail pointed out that the 2014 Heartbleed bug was created by a human coding error. AI could test software, as well as learn and fix problems, to help prevent some of the breaches and hacks we are seeing now that result from human error.

People are often concerned about technology reducing the security of online information and compromising privacy. Yet technology actually has the capacity to create a safer digital world. As technology continues to move our world forward, it’s important that the industry puts a focus on balancing the desire for progress with the need for security and consumer trust.

To hear all of Jeff Howell’s thoughts on the future of the high-tech industry, listen to the full S.M.A.C. Talk podcast.

Hear the full podcast episode here. Learn how to innovate at scale by incorporating individual innovations back to the core business to drive tangible business value by reading Accelerating Digital Transformation in High Tech. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


Danielle Homer

About Danielle Homer

Danielle Homer is a Solution and Product Marketing Specialist at SAP. After receiving her master’s degree in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship, her affinity for innovation has led her to the exciting industries of A&D and High Tech to help customers transform and expand their business.