An internal video produced by Google shows just how much data the company controls. In the video called the Selfish Ledger, it shows that using the vast amount of data that it controls, it could be able to influence people's behavior in the future.
Google's video is a stark reminder of the dangers of technology shown in the hit television series Black Mirror.
The Selfish Ledger
The Selfish Ledger was made in 2016 by Nick Foster, who is the head of design at X, formerly called Google X. In the video, Google can be seen amassing large quantities of data which makes them influence people's behavior to reach certain goals, 3D-printed personal devices which give the company more data and how this data can be used to change the behaviors of a population to solve problems like poverty and disease.
The Selfish Ledger in the video would work by collecting all of a user's personal data. This includes things that person does on their phone, preference settings, and decisions that they make. It would be managed by Google, who interprets the information for the person and leads towards a goal of their choosing.
In the video, a person can set a life goal, the ledger will then tell that person what they would have to do to reach that goal. It also shows how the ledger can push Google's values on people. In the video, Google said that some of the recommendations that it suggests can reflect the company's values such as getting people to reduce their carbon footprint.
For people that are already fearful of the future thanks to Google's video, this sort of technology still doesn't exist. If it did exist, it would probably have to wrestle with privacy laws including the right to be forgotten in Europe.
Google told the Verge that the point of the video is to be disturbing because it was designed to be that way. It says that the video was made as a thought-experiment years ago based on a technique called speculative design. It does state that the video isn't related to any current or future products by the company.
The 9-minute video does serve to show just how much information is collected by companies such as Google. Using all of the information that it collects company can effectively predict and influence behavior with their suggestions and reach to consumers. Google states that this isn't a product that it is working on but it could be something of a possibility in the future.