Next Meetup

What are the benefits and costs of sharing personal information?
We share lots of personal information with a wide variety of commercial organisations. In particular: Social media companies; Search engines; Internet shopping companies (particularly those like Amazon who act as on-line department stores and which provide a shop window for 3rd party retailers); Conventional shopping companies through "loyalty cards"; Banks; Insurance companies etc Even! We assume, with reasonable certainty, that our financial details, when shared, are held securely and only used for the intended purposes. More worrying perhaps is the possible uses of more general information about us - our interests, preferences, purchasing patterns etc. Unlike not-for-profit and govenment organisations, we fear that commercial organisations will be driven to use our data for their profit motive, rather than our benefit. Worse, we fear this may be done in ways we are unaware of, which are difficult to understand and impossible to control, and by technologies which are developing rapidly. The battle to persuade us to buy things we don't really need will be ratcheted up another level, beyond the conventional advertising/media/peer-group techniques we broadly understand. In addition to the deliberate commercial exploitation of personal data, a more insidious problem is that of platforms being manipulated by external organisations to influence public opinion. Spreading "false news" by Facebook through our friends networks is an obvious example. In what ways is this problem any worse than when media was controlled exclusively by professional media editors? How can platform providers prevent their systems being abused in ways they never envisaged? What social responsibilities do they have, or should they have, to control how their platform is used? Conversely, what new social responsibilities do WE have? On the more positive side, the best uses of our shared personal information can be to our advantage: We see things which are most relevant to us, such as "recommendations" tailored to us. We can share reviews of products and services to inspire confidence before committing ourselves. Popular new services are possible which were never available before (AirBnB, Uber, TripAdvisor, Internet dating and MeetUp for example as well as different ways of maintaining our social networks). Together, these benefits have revolutionised the way we live our lives. Do these and other benefits outweigh the costs? The General Data Protection Regulation which came into force in the EU earlier this year aims to put control in the hands of us, the service users. However, in practice, most of us just tick the required boxes without much thought, in order to access the services we want. Few of us know what rights we are signing away. Are we being manipulated too easily? What behaviour should we take to be vigilant? Are we being too paranoid - does it really matter what "they" know? Do companies need to be controlled even more tightly in the way they use our data? How? How might technology develop? Like them or loath them, we live in a world dominated by large commercial internet companies with access to huge amounts of personal information about us, and a commercial drive to exploit it to their advantage. Their platforms are sometimes used in problematic ways their designers could never forsee. How can we live with them? Optional reading: P.S.Seats for this event are somewhat limited, only room for 10 people, so please check available spaces before asking friends to join you. This is such a great topic, I think it will be an excellent discussion !

The Bristol Flyer

96 Gloucester Rd · Bristol

What we're about

Café Philo is a way of meeting interesting, inquiring people who enjoy talking about life's big issues and conundrums in a convivial atmosphere in the Bristol and Bath area.

We discuss all manner of topics. Some are profound, others are decidedly not. We aim to have one topic per month, we hold events to discuss this topic in a number locations, often with two separate discussions in each venue - we limit numbers to 12 for each discussion (usually less in practice). Each discussion goes in its own direction, depending on the people around the table. A facilitator gently steers the discussion to help keep things moving, interesting and balanced.

Our discussions are non-party-political and free of religious or ideological dogma (most of the time at least). We encourage a healthy mix of the serious and humourous, so you can be guaranteed a lively, stimulating evening.

We're not academics or experts - just ordinary people from a variety of backgrounds who share a common interest in exchanging ideas about things which matter in life and meeting like-minded people.

If you're a heavy-duty philosopher you may find this group a bit lightweight. For anybody else, come along and get stuck into a decent conversation over a coffee or beer.

In addition to our discussions we hold some social events and occasionally arrange to meet for public talks.

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