FILE- In this June 1, 2018, file photo, commuters look at their phones in Los Angeles. Technology giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon ask us to trust them with ever-more sensitive aspects of our lives, from our relationships to our private conversations. But there’s a catch: If they prove unworthy of that trust, the repercussions are scant and alternatives seem hard to find. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Don't trust the tech giants? You likely rely on them anyway


If technology giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon face a common threat to their dominance, it probably lies in a single word: trust.

In some respects, these companies are riding high. They have woven themselves into the fabric of our daily lives, making their services indispensable for daily tasks like keeping in touch with family and friends, watching TV and buying cat food. Revenues are up and profits are soaring.

But they've also drawn the attention of regulators in Europe and the U.S. thanks to carelessness with consumer data and other problems. Facebook's leaky data controls, for instance, let Cambridge Analytica mine the profiles of up to 87 million people in an attempt to swing elections. The social network has also had to beef up manual oversight to clamp down on the spread of fake news.

Google's YouTube has likewise been implicated in the spread of political conspiracy theories. Not long ago, Amazon's always-listening Echo speaker inadvertently recorded a family's conversation at home — and then sent the recording to someone else.

Some of these issues are systemic; others may be little more than the growing pains of new technologies. What they all fuel, though, is a sense that technology may not always warrant the implicit faith we place in it.

Companies have to realize "that trust isn't digital," says Gerd Leonhard, a futurist and author of "Technology vs. Humanity." ''Trust is not something that you download. Trust is a feeling. It's a perception."

Trust looms large in modern life. We still get on airplanes even though they sometimes come apart in flight . We go to hospitals even though medical errors sometimes kill patients. These services are too important to live without, despite the occasional disastrous error.

But those industries are also heavily regulated because of the risks involved. Technology companies, by comparison, are largely unconstrained.

Trust issues could be especially acute for technology companies, since their services are effectively omnipresent yet largely inscrutable. You can't audit Google's algorithm to see why it's giving you certain search results the way you can watch your bank balance. You just have to trust that the company is upholding its promises.

Yet so far, such concerns don't loom large for most consumers. "That trust is eroded, but the uncomfortable thing is no one really cares," says Scott Galloway, a New York University marketing professor. "As long as they trust that technology will improve their lives, they don't appear to care about the other stuff."

A 2016 survey from the Pew Research Center, for instance, found that only 9 percent of users were "very confident" that social media companies could protect their data. More than half had little or no confidence. Yet a January survey from Pew found that 69 percent of U.S. adults use social media, unchanged from 2016.

Shaky consumer confidence can still limit the time people spend on Facebook or curb their enthusiasm for new boundary-pushing services. Amazon, for instance, now wants its delivery people to leave packages inside your home or car. That's not going to fly if you're worried about Amazon exploiting its access to your private spaces.

But tech giants have fewer worries about consumers defecting to their rivals, in part because they each do their best to lock users into their array of complementary apps and services. That doesn't stop them from sniping at one another, of course. Apple, for instance, has emphasized its privacy protections to highlight its differences with Facebook and Google. But it's also reportedly seeking ways to expand its ad business, which would bring it into more direct competition with its two rivals.

History does offer a cautionary tale for tech companies that grow too complacent. Roughly a decade ago, Microsoft's dominance in personal computers seemed impregnable, even after a bruising antitrust fight over its Windows monopoly. Then came the iPhone, which Microsoft ridiculed — at least until the mobile computing wave it unleashed swamped the Windows PC.

Could a similar shift today tap into underlying consumer discontent and topple today's tech giants? Perhaps, although it's not clear exactly how.

One possibility could involve blockchain, the technology that underlies bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies. Some enthusiasts have begun to talk about blockchain-based social networks that could operate without central authorities such as Facebook, which in theory could also minimize privacy risks. But that could take years, if it comes to pass at all.

In the meantime, developments in artificial intelligence could make things even worse on the trust front. Some researchers are using AI systems to create realistic — but wholly fabricated — videos of famous people. In one, former President Barack Obama is made to "talk" about a shooting ; in another, President Donald Trump gestures in front of a fake photograph .

Google recently unveiled a digital voice assistant called Duplex that can sound convincingly human while booking appointments over the phone. Google says that bot will identify itself as nonhuman when making such calls — but it's not hard to imagine robocallers developing similar, but less scrupulous, technology.

Others are pitting AI networks against each other to hone their abilities to deceive and detect deception — for the moment, primarily in digital images. Applied to other uses, however, this technology could fundamentally test our trust in one another and society's institutions, says Matthew Griffin, a U.K. consultant and futurist.

© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Facebook, Google, and Amazon - I use all three. I know Google shares info with FB since some recent searches on Google Maps showed up as recommended sites on FB for me to like.

But to be honest, I don't care. They can share all the information they want with each other. So what? Ultimately, I'm the one who makes the final decision as to what I buy or do online.

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Its not just Tech Giants... the "Consumer" Trust factor extends across Industries - look at the data fabrication scandals that went on (still going on?) within the German Car Industry I for one wouldn't want a VW, BMW / Porsche now, and would rather spend a bit more on something more bespoke, than run of the mill, reputation built upon fake data, cars. Likewise look at the data falsification that went on/going on in the Japanese Steel Industry, etc.

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I don't use FB. I have Google closed down tracking off no web history and only sign in when I need too. I use Amazon for online shopping. I also use a VPN or TOR and Epic browsers so they are getting misinformation.

I'm tried with all the request now for cookies, new TOS and whatever especially since the new EU DATA regs. I don't visit unsafe sites.

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I only use FB for research, nothing with my real name. They are too creepy. The data that smartphone apps provide to their using apps is really much worse than most people understand and effectively, all apps have access to all the available sensor data. has 18 things that facebook knows about you.

I use instagram and 20 other social apps in the same way as FB, that is for research only and only from a device specifically for research purposes.

With Google, who you shouldn't trust either, they have all the data keep it in your profile. The best you can do is to tell google not to use that data to target you and not to use google applications. There are alternatives. I use a gmail account only to deal with the govt. NEVER for personal information.

Do people realize that upper management at all these companies don't use any of their social applications? Why not? Because the fully understand how much tracking and data capture is going on.

The big cloudy companies just want to make their stuff easy to use so you won't bother to use a bunch of independent tools. The more centralized the data can be, the more dangerous it is to society. Yes, it is more convenient to have all your data behind 1 login, but it is better for security and your privacy to have 20 smaller piles of data behind 20 independent providers ... or to have all your data under your control.

Never use a FB, Tweeter or google account to log into any other service.

And all your contacts and connections are a great way to know more about you as a person, customer, consumer, and for political reasons.

I'm not all that worried about Amazon. I have a financial relationship with them and they want to retain my business. I do worry about all the free-to-me services used by everyone. If you don't pay for a service, than you and your data are the product.

By commenting here, we give up a bunch of data to JT too. I always use a VPN when commenting here, so my actual location isn't leaked, for example.

Just for fun, try this experiment.

open the facebook app on your phone. 1-2 times a day for the next 2-3 days, say you want to visit "London" and see if your ads don't change on your phone, tablet, and computer to show more London related ads. Instagram, google will work too. Try it.
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to have an accounts to all of those social sites is free and not compulsory. users must be the one responsible for his/her private datas she/he shared. Dont expect these large social sites company to be very private and careful of your private datas even if they promise. I use FB, Google, Yahoo etc for convenience sake in exchange for a bit of my personal data that I chose to be okay even when they publicize it.

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I trust the Chinese Government more with my Private data than I do the likes of Facebook, etc. I've nothing to hide, except from being inundated with things I don't want, or to be Socially profiled as something that I am not.

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I'm guessing that 94% of the world has "nothing to hide", but that isn't the point. The 6% with something they prefer others not know, either to avoid discrimination or govt backlash or just because they don't want their business to be public - it doesn't matter - they deserve the support and efforts from everyone else to help hide them in plain sight.

What does all this mean? It means all of us should make our privacy a priority. We should always use encryption as much as practical. That goes for messaging, email, web, video, audio, phone, and all other traffic. If 6% encrypt all there data and nobody else does, then only 6% of the data needs to be saved and decrypted. OTOH, if 100% of us encrypt all our data, the problem is exponentially harder, so the privacy of those 6% is much stronger.

We need to fight govts who insist on weak encryption or blocking tools for strong encryption. We need to fight organizations which push this agenda. 1984 wasn't just a book, it was a warning. It is becoming true with laws in China, Russia, UK, France, Canada and pressure from the FBI in the USA. Did you know that France, Canada and the UK have laws to compel people to decrypt any device at will? The FBI busted a CEO because he made secure communications possible for a group of people.

Social networks as just another method for govts to spy on their people.

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I'm switching off my internet adapter more these days, just working off the hard drive. I've also given up using the Cloud, using a thumb drive instead for backup. Safer and more stable.

I'd switch to Linux, if it weren't for my clients who are always sending and sharing MS Office docs

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