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‘Smart televisions know which actors you have a crush on’

  • Published at 07:20 pm November 8th, 2018
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From left- Zakir Kibria, Garga Chatterjee, David Biello, Syed Mafiz Kamal Onik speaks at the Dhaka Lit Fest 2018 on November 08, 2018 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Panelists discuss the perils of all-knowing technologies and the disappearance of privacy

The individual’s right to protect private information is becoming increasingly difficult owing to invasive technologies, speakers at a panel at Dhaka Lit Fest said on Thursday.

Titled “The Right to Lie,” the panel discussion was held at the Vaskar Novera Exhibition Hall at the Bangla Academy premise, where the three-day literary festival is currently taking place. 

“In the current reality, we do not have the right to conceal private information,” said Syed Mafiz Kamal Onik, who is a researcher with Policy Research Institute (PRI) of Bangladesh and assistant editor of the South Asia Journal.

The constant advancement of technology is presenting new challenges to the individual’s right to safeguard private information, said neuroscientist and political analyst Garga Chatterjee. “The technology is getting better and it is getting humans closer to the ability of physically detecting lies,” Chatterjee said referring to various tools like MRI scanning that now provide unprecedented insight into specific functions of the human brain. Garga Chatterjee is a member of the faculty at the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata and leads the Ghilu Lab for Brain, Cognition and Society. He has a PhD from Harvard University on Neuroscience.


Author and journalist David Biello said that the use of genetic information is the next frontier. China is an example, he said, of how omnipresent surveillance can be employed using digital technology. “The next frontier is genetic privacy. The sequencing tech is good enough to figure out things about me that even I don’t know about myself. And that information can be weaponized against me,” he said. Biello is the author of “The Unnatural World: The Race to Remake Civilization in Earth’s Newest Age.” He is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting on the environment and energy since 1999. 


Policy analyst Zakir Kibria said that the general public should be cognizant of the realities of information gathering. “We should be concerned about who owns our information,” said Kibria. He pointed out that smart television sets are now equipped with cameras and sensors that can monitor what the viewers are watching and how they are reacting to it. Kibria says that this has certain ramifications. “Samsung can know which TV shows you are watching and from studying your facial expressions it can probably tell which actors you have a crush on,” he said. Even though it is essential to keep private information getting away from the personal space of the individual, Kibria said, it is actually no longer possible. Zakir Kibria is a policy analyst with Uttaran, a Bangladeshi NGO. 

Commenting on use of personal data, Garga Chaterjee said that his organization carried out a study in a number of countries and found that data from most lie detection tests across those countries is being misused. Even though lie detection tests are not currently admissible in courts across the world, more precise technologies might soon make it admissible. “It is assumed that if you want to conceal something, you have something to hide,” he said. And that, says Garga Chatterjee, is a matter of concern.

Dhaka Lit Fest 2018 began on Thursday and is set to end on Saturday. A large number of national and international literary and cultural figures are scheduled to appear in different sessions throughout the three-day festival.