The public is aware that much of what they read is nonsense. A Reuters Institute report last year which surveyed people across 40 countries found that only 23% trusted news on the internet and just 10% trusted social media news, yet young people increasingly rely on those sources for all their information about the world. We may think we can judge the truth of what we see but when Channel Four Television showed six stories, three of which were true and three false, to 1,700 people, only 4% of people guessed correctly. What are the implications for our democracy if voters are being fed lies in messages targeted at them individually by unknown forces using information from their search histories acquired by unknown hands?
We need excellent publications like this to alert us to the risks, to inform us about the massive benefits to our health and lives which harvesting data can bring, and to feed into thinking about how we can regulate so that we control our futures.