Omidyar Network believes that technology can and should be a force for good in our society. The speed and scale of technological innovation brings opportunities and improvements that shape our economies, our politics, and our communities. At the same time, it can exacerbate inequalities, pose new risks, and raise serious issues about responsibility, accountability, and values.
One root issue facing us is the sheer concentration of power in the hands of a few large tech platforms. Our aim is to clarify the political, social, and economic harms of such platforms, while addressing their dominance over data, markets, and decision-making. To promote greater accountability, more human-centered rules, and better and fairer outcomes, we currently support narrative change and advocacy, the marshalling of evidence and argument on potential solutions, and coordinated and enlightened regulations.
While encrypted messaging is a boon to privacy, it is also a potential source of social disruption that we need to understand and manage better. Research on consumer behavior, a better comprehension of nefarious actors’ incentives, and issue amplification and advocacy can help civil society and tech companies better manage disinformation and dangerous speech, while also protecting user privacy on messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Signal.
A primary cause of many of tech’s challenges – spanning data privacy violations, the pollution of civil discourse, and discriminatory algorithms – is the incentives that are built into the business models themselves. No good can come from using widespread surveillance to harvest individuals’ data to advance digital targeting, service provision, advertising, and persuasion. We work to uncover and accelerate alternative business models that enhance user agency and control, respect privacy, and value and monetize data differently.
A common thread that runs through our work is our belief that we must come together to envision and articulate a new social contract for data and technology in the 21st century. For this to happen, we will need to engage in deliberate and meaningful conversations about the role of data and technology in society, and what that means for its governance, distribution of benefits and risks, and who gets to have a say in the decisions that matter.
We face a critical opportunity to take stock of technology’s contributions, to redefine the rules and norms surrounding how data and technology are created and used, and to articulate a human-centered vision that can underpin greater individual empowerment, social opportunity, and user safety.