Technology, covid19 and digital rights

At Espai Societat Oberta, we are hosting a series of online debates on our post-pandemic future. It is in these moments of disruption that we need collective debate to rethink our current social models. Our first debate focused on both the potential and risks of technology in the current context: How does the use of technology affect us when we normalize it and incorporate it into so many areas of our lives? How important is this fact when we are living through a pandemic like COVID19?

We were joined by Gemma Galdon (public policy analyst specializing in surveillance) and Borja Adsuara (professor, lawyer and consultant in law, strategy and digital communication). The debate was moderated by Stéphane M. Grueso ( journalist, filmmaker and social activist). Our guests questioned how the use of technology affects us during Covid-19, when it is so embedded in our daily lives. It is a difficult question to approach, but one which both Chatón Galdon and Borja Adsuara have explored in their previous work. Here you can watch the debate and reflections.        

Do we want to live through screens?

“I think we were aware of the potential of technology but we were not so aware of the power it has to save us in a situation like the one we are living in. We are seeing the potential of the tools but also the debate about whether we want to live through screens. I think that we are living in a social and global experiment and that new debates are being generated,” Galdon said.

“Digitalization is not only a change in tools but also in the environment,” says Adsuara, referring to the changes in paradigms and routines in a pandemic. “We have to rethink things that were done before and accept that others, like teleworking, are possible. This situation has many drawbacks but also many opportunities”.

Concerns

Gemma Galdon fears that social, economic, digital and gender inequalities will be magnified during the pandemic. Care work, misogyny and the digital gap are already issues of concern and Galdon asks if technology can help in situations like this and what about privacy in these cases.

Borja Adsuara notes some concerns related to technology and Covid19 . Firstly, the fear of losing access to the Internet, because it is now the umbilical cord that connects us to the outside world; “We don’t realize the importance of the environment until we lose it”. Secondly, Adsuara is concerned that the number of cybercrimes in Spain is growing exponentially every year, and that 99% of these go unpunished.

Privacy, trust and society

Both Adsuara and Galdon explored the use of technology during the pandemic, particularly the use of apps to collect data from citizens. “I believe that we should not choose between privacy and health. I have no objection to giving out my data as long as I can be assured that it is under medical secrecy and with guarantees,” said Adsuara. 

Galdon stated that “it is good to be suspicious whenever a company or app asks for your data […] When your doctor creates a database, even with the best of intentions, this database can be hacked. You have to evolve to technologies that you can trust.”

Questions were raised after the individual talks, covering issues from European privacy policies, private companies such as Google and Apple, to non-invasive protocols and blockchain, amongst others. If you want to watch the debate in detail, don’t miss the original video in Spanish!

At Espai Societat Oberta, we are organising different debates around the theme of Beyond the Pandemic. The next event is Wednesday 6th May, focusing on civil rights and Covid19 – be sure to pencil it into your diary!

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