Worst uses of technology: the companies with the most dystopian technology

Facebook - inciting genocide in Myanmar

Facebook - inciting genocide in Myanmar

Facebook's philosophy of "move fast and break things," has helped build an enormous company and advertising behemoth in a short period of time, but that growth has increasingly led to unforeseen consequences.

The social network has been used by extremists in Sri Lanka to provoke anti-Muslim violence, by data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica to influence voters in the UK's EU referendum and the US presidential election, and by ultranationalists in Myanmar to incite what a UN rapporteur called "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing" of the country's Rohingya minority group.

Adam Mosseri, a vice president of product management at Facebook, told Slate's podcast, If Then, that the violence challenged Facebook's fundamental purpose.

"Connecting the world isn’t always going to be a good thing," he admitted in the aftermath.

The Spinner - manipulating your loved ones

The Spinner - manipulating your loved ones

The power of targeted advertising is already notorious for influencing consumer behaviour and voters, but it's also available on the cheap for the general public to manipulate their friends and family thanks to a London-based startup called The Spinner.

For $29, the company will enable you to subconsciously influence an individual person by controlling the content on the websites they visit. If a customer wants to manipulate their partner into having sex on demand, they can purchase a package of 180 impressions of 10 articles on subjects such as "5 reasons why you should initiate sex".

The Spinner then sends their target an innocent-looking text with a link that that activates a cookie on their phone. When their partner clicks the link, they are strategically bombarded with articles and media containing these messages in the form of regular editorial content.

Alternatively, customers can purchase a campaign designed to influence their partner to propose, but this has proven less popular.

"I think because men are most commonly our users," Elliot Shefler, the company's head of marketing and social, told the Financial Times. “And they all just want the Initiate Sex package. It's a case of supply and demand."

IBM - developing facial recognition system for police that can detect ethnicity

IBM - developing facial recognition system for police that can detect ethnicity

In 2018, IBM raised the ire of civil liberties campaigners after The Intercept revealed that the company had worked with New York City police to build a facial recognition system that officials could use to search for people by skin colour, gender, age, hair colour, and a range of facial features.

The project was perhaps unsurprising for a company that supplied the Nazis with technology used to transport millions of people to concentration camps, and IBM is not the only tech company providing facial recognition to law enforcement officers.

Amazon has sold its Rekognition system to two US states and pitched it to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while in the UK, a number of police forces have trialled similar technology, one of which fined a man £90 for covering his face as he passed the cameras. Silkie Carlo, the director of privacy rights group Big Brother Watch, told the BBC there was no legal basis for the police to use facial recognition.

"Our ultimate fear is that we would have live facial-recognition capabilities on our gargantuan CCTV network – which is about six million cameras in the UK," she said.

Amazon - automated supervision of staff

Amazon - automated supervision of staff

Amazon is regularly accused of treating staff like robots, and recent reports on the ecommerce behemoth's monitoring tech suggest the charges are closer to the truth than even Amazon's harshest critics realise.

In April, the Verge reported that the company evaluates its workers using an automated tracking and termination system. In a letter obtained by the publication, an attorney representing Amazon said that the system "tracks the rates of each individual associate’s productivity," and "automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors."

The system is one of a number of digital tools Amazon is developing for its warehouses. Last year, the company was awarded a patent for wristbands that track the locations and movements of employees and buzz if they fail to complete their tasks correctly. As Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and a prominent Amazon critic, told the Verge, "they’re monitored and supervised by robots."

Uber - using surge pricing to profit off a protest

Uber - using surge pricing to profit off a protest

Uber's steady string of scandals reached a nadir in January 2017, when the company suspended surge pricing at JFK airport during a New York taxi worker's strike against President's Trump Muslim travel ban. The apparent attempt to profit off the protest triggered the #DeleteUber campaign, which the ride-hailing giant claims led "hundreds of thousands" of people to stop using the app.

The company's tech has also been used for a range of invasive surveillance methods, including tracking the trips of reporter's, politicians, celebrities and personal acquaintances of Uber employees with a tool called "God View", and monitoring the availability and prices of Lyft drivers through the "Hell" programme.

Google - creating a global surveillance system

Google - creating a global surveillance system

Privacy campaigners have repeatedly censured Google since the company quietly expunged its "don't be evil" slogan from its code of conduct last year.

The main concerns have centred on the search giant's evolution into a mass surveillance system. Google pioneered the harvesting of data for targeted advertising, and continually finds new avenues to collect user information, from the locations entered into Google Maps to the voice commands issued to Google Assistant.

Most recently, the company installed a microphone on its home security and alarm system Nest Secure without telling its users. What was the reason why customers weren't informed?

"The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs," a Google spokesperson told Business Insider. "That was an error on our part."

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