Moving minority report out of sci-fi

The 1956 book, and 2002 film by the same name, Minority Report raises some interesting ethical questions.

The plot of both book and film focusses around the activities of John Anderton of a ‘pre-crime division’ in the future police, who spends most of the film either arresting people for crimes they are yet to commit, or running away from the law for a murder he is apparently going to commit.

Even just 15 years ago, it sounded like fanciful science fiction that raised some interesting questions about the nature of crime and criminals. But these days, the ability to predict someone’s actions before they take them no longer seems at all far-fetched.

Today it is being done with increasing accuracy thanks to the data people voluntarily give up online, as opposed to the mutated psychics from the book and film.

And whereas in Minority Report this information is used by the government to help combat crime, today this information is used by companies all over the world to better target advertising, establish trends, create content and generally increase profits.

This was the topic of DealTrack’s annual F&I Conference and Awards this year, in which DealTrak’s managing director, Martin Hill, gave some alarming statistics about just how accurately a person can be profiled using just Facebook likes.

Let me just say that after hearing these, I went back and did a fairly thorough cleansing of my social media – sorry, the Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov appreciation society!

We have seen the power of this data in the influence of social media, with adverts posted to Facebook and Twitter targeting specific users for specific ads, designed to provoke a specific reaction. In this context it is little wonder that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) should be welcomed. The laws it is largely replacing came into the world in 1998, around the same time the first customer was having broadband installed and Google was being founded. Current data protection rules were simply not designed for the modern world and, with technology advancing all the time, the gap between regulation and reality is growing wider all the time.

In other words, GDPR has been a long time coming, and we have had a while to prepare for it. The fines for not getting GDPR right are potentially huge, so if you are yet to start thinking about it, it is probably worth doing so sooner rather than later.

From my understanding, a good basic starting position will be to make sure you know what data you are collecting, why you are collecting it, that you have a right to collect and use this data, and that it is securely stored.

Given recent feedback from readers, I know a lot of subscribers are working on ensuring they are ready for May next year, when the GDPR will start to be enforced. Rest assured Motor Finance will have plenty of comments and articles helping you to prepare for then.