June 2, 2023

Lauren Goode: From what I learn about Meredith, she’s nicely certified to have this dialog. She spent loads of time at Google, which is a spot that depends very closely on what she calls the “surveillance enterprise mannequin,” which is the best way companies use and promote our knowledge to become profitable. 

Gideon Lichfield: Precisely. She labored at Google for 13 years, and whereas she was there in 2018, she helped lead that huge worker walkout over how Google dealt with a number of sexual harassment instances. And now she’s main the Sign Basis, which runs the Sign app. So she’s nicely versed within the topic of privateness and has expertise in activism. 

Lauren Goode: I do know Sign may be very in style amongst journalists. Like individuals typically say, “DM me for Sign,” as a result of it is a actually safe approach to talk with sources. Do you employ Sign, Gideon?

Gideon Lichfield: I exploit it clearly to purchase my medication and to order hits on my enemies, and to plot the overthrow of the federal government occasionally.

Lauren Goode: Proper, proper. You have not achieved a kind of in a short while now.

Gideon Lichfield: This job would not go away a lot time. Anyway, what makes Sign attention-grabbing is it was the primary app to supply end-to-end encryption the place the corporate cannot learn the contents of your messages, however now numerous different apps supply end-to-end encryption as nicely. What makes Sign totally different is, it nonetheless doesn’t acquire nearly any metadata, like who you are sending messages to, or the timestamps on them, and loads of data may be reconstructed from that sort of metadata. So it’s actually much more personal than the opposite apps.

Lauren Goode: However Sign, on the finish of the day, remains to be only a messaging app, and the privateness drawback we have been speaking about extends to all the pieces throughout the web, not simply messaging. So I am curious how we get from having this very personal messaging to non-public all the pieces else?

 Gideon Lichfield: Effectively, that’s precisely what I wished to ask Meredith, and that dialog is after the break. 


Gideon Lichfield: Meredith Whittaker, welcome to Have a Good Future.

Meredith Whittaker: Gideon, I am so completely happy to be right here. Thanks.

Gideon Lichfield: Among the friends that we have now on this present are right here to inform us about their imaginative and prescient of the long run and the way great it may be, after which our job is to ask them if that is actually the long run we would like. And I really feel such as you’re right here to inform us a couple of future that we will all agree we in all probability do not need, which is certainly one of complete surveillance.

Meredith Whittaker: Yeah, I do not suppose any of us need that, and I feel there are fortunately some ways to keep away from it, however they may take a bit of labor.

Gideon Lichfield: My cohost Lauren typically likes to say that we’re like frogs boiling in surveillance water, and that within the final 15 or 20 years, we have simply step by step come to just accept that privateness is useless, that each single factor we do on-line and more and more offline simply generates knowledge for giant tech firms to feed on. And also you began at Google in 2006, you left in 2019, so you’ve got kind of watched that water go from room temperature to boiling level. Was it a sluggish realization for you or one thing that you just clocked abruptly?

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