LAST MONTH AT the Techonomy conference in Half Moon Bay, California, a group of technologists explored the ethics of developing web services in the age of artificial intelligence. How much do people really understand about the information they’re giving up in return for a service, an audience member asked, and can they choose not to give up that data?
The question was met, at first, with a quizzical silence. Data is the fuel that makes the Internet work. Without it, online services aren’t as personal, or as useful. Then someone on the panel remarked that, of course, a user has to give up data, but it’s her choice. She could choose, instead, to opt out.
But could she? Can anyone?