Xi Jinping is on the phone for you

Who would you rather have tapping your phone? Siri or Xi Jinping?

Surveillance capitalism may seem bad. But it’s nothing compared to surveillance communism.

People who use technology today are mortified to discover that their advertising is tailored to them. I’m not sure why. I find it useful or entertainingly misguided. Lately it’s been the latter as I often search for maternity-related items for my wife…

Why do people fear sharing enough information that their advertising can be tailored? The implication is that someone has so much information about us that it gives them immense power… to sell us something. Which bothers me less than some of the people who get behind the wheel each day.

But I suppose the emotion is at least rational to some extent. If you don’t know who has the information, what else could it be used for?

The trouble is, giving that power to governments is far far worse. Because governments don’t bother to advertise when they try to do things to you. They don’t try and convince you either. They don’t give you offers. You can’t boycott them or stop paying them. They use force – the threat of violence, or just violence – when you disobey.

You’d be on the wrong side of the law, not them, if something went wrong.

You might not like the idea of Alexa or Siri listening in on your phone calls and conversations. But the alternative – having the regulators do it – is mortifying. To me at least.

For every misstep of the private sector, there has been a government genocide. For every bit of pollution, the government has poisoned people. For every innovation governments created during wartime, they’ve slaughtered hundreds of innovators on battlefields.

The clamour against surveillance capitalism terrifies me because it begs for supervision from something worse. A government. And giving that lot access is far worse.

This may seem arbitrary theorising to you. But it’s playing out on the news (and in reality too). Apple is reportedly refusing to unlock a phone connected to a crime for the US government.

The UK government pledged to exclude China’s Huawei from any crucial parts of its 5G network yesterday because of concerns over its ties to the Chinese government. Nobody knows what the precise distinction of “crucial” is, but you get the idea.

This after the prime minister triggered a kerfuffle by demanding Huawei’s critics come up with alternatives. As though there aren’t any obvious ones which other nations have hired to roll out their 5G network. Let alone the ones we’ve recommended investing in.

The worry is of course that China will build back doors for surveillance into Britain’s 5G network.

Over in Iran, they’ve launched an intranet using Huawei’s technology. The government has complete control over what its population sees. The question is, which government…

I don’t know if rollouts of the telecoms network was politicised in the past. World War 2 spy movies love to show agents climb telephone poles to listen in or cut them…

The trouble with 5G is that it’s far more than a phone network. Everything from self-driving cars to healthcare could use it. Interfering in the connection of the surgeon who is doing your surgery remotely is just one nightmarish scenario.

The private sector is ruled by the profit motive. The government sector is far more nefarious.

The good news is that all of this is a profitable trend, as well as a disconcerting one. Because 5G is a strategic industry, full of geopolitical considerations, companies that you can invest in right here on the UK market are likely to be involved in its rollout. Our tech analysts have found a few set to boom.

Until next time,

Nick Hubble
Editor, Southbank Investment Research

Category: Technology

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