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The Big Problem With Online Privacy (Episode 37)

Rob Shavell co-founded the Internet privacy company Abine.com.

Abine, Inc. provides internet privacy solutions. The company offers tools for consumers to control what personal information companies, third parties, and other people see about them online. 

Rob brought Abine’s core products to market, including DoNotTrackMe, which has protected the privacy of over 10 Million consumers and has been featured by hundreds of news outlets, including CNET, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times.

Prior to Abine he had been involved in the startup scene in multiple roles and was the VP of Product at Identity Force, an identity theft provider.

He was also the co-founder of one of the first consumer group travel portals, TravelTogether.com.

Rob was an associate at Softbank Capital Partners (Boston) and Softbank/Mobius Venture Capital (Silicon Valley) and has a BA from Cornell University where he began his studies in the school of Architecture.

What you will learn

  • Why we are just at the start of the application of some controls of the big social media giants and digital platforms
  • Whether the machines are out of control
  • If you are protecting your privacy rights
  • The solutions to get your privacy back
  • What Artificial General Intelligence is
  • The 3 big privacy problems to solve 
  • Why your data is leaking out there and you don’t know it 
  • How you can remove personal data tracking
  • The 3 solutions – Masked email address, masked phone number, masked credit card


Jeff Bullas: Hi everyone and welcome to the Jeff Bullas show. Today I have with me Rob Shavell. Now, Rob hails from Boston in the USA and Rob is the founder of a company that protects or helps with internet privacy solutions. The company offers tools for consumers to control what personal information companies, third parties and other people see about them online. As we know, that is becoming more and more important. So Rob, bought the brand's core products to market including do not track me, which is protect the privacy of a 10 million consumers. That's pretty cool, Rob, and has been featured by hundreds of news outlets, including seen at the Boston Globe and New York Times and I believe the BBC as well. Now prior to Abine, he has been involved in the startup scene in multiple roles. Ron was the VP product that IdentityForce identity fifth provider. He was the co-founder of one of the first consumer group travel portals, traveltogether.com, I'm looking forward to have a chat more about that, because that sort of resonates with me, you like a bit of travel and do I like traveling together.

Jeff Bullas: Rob was also an associate at SoftBank Capital Partners in Boston and SoftBank in Silicon Valley. So Rob has a BA from Cornell University, which I've heard of, and apparently is a good university. I think he passed which is excellent. A lot of people don't pass their degree. They go out and do one year and run away and join the army or something. I don't know. But anyway, Rob has a BA from Cornell Uni. And he began his studies in the School of Architecture. Now, that's fascinating. So let's cut back. Okay, we won't go back to when you were four or five, let's go to you when studied architecture. How did that all happen, Rob?

Rob Shavell: Yeah, well, thanks for having me, first of all, and I would respond to your comment, and then answer your question. Your comment being many people don't graduate from university, I would heartily agree with that, except for those in your audience that aren't familiar with Cornell, the university located in the middle of nowhere, and very high up in northern New York. So high up that you're four hours away from New York City, and you're four hours away from Toronto, it snows a lot and it's pretty miserable for about six, seven months of the year. So there is nothing else to do but study and drink. So as long as you can keep those two things in an appropriate ratio, most people graduate. I was lucky enough to be among them. So thank you for that and shout out to my Alma mater, but in terms of how I got into architecture, and there's software architecture and there's architecture, architecture. But where I started was drawing in a big drafty old warehouse in the university and making designs and so forth.

Rob Shavell: I got there because I was always interested in sort of buildings and travel and the world around me from early on when I was a kid playing with blocks and things like that. And frankly, I never wanted what most people would call a normal job. And architecture seemed like a good way to not have a normal job and the only way to go once I decided I didn't want to be an architect was to be an entrepreneur. So that's what I became and that's why we're here today.

Jeff Bullas: Well, being an entrepreneur is not a normal job, but it sounds like you like just building things in blocks initially. I remember building things with blocks and then seeing if I could knock them over, see at all I could build them. That was actually what I did when I was growing up. I used to have this box of blocks and I remember trying to see how tall could I build a block skyscraper? So you did the uni degree Cornell because it was cold and you couldn't escape. So better than going to the Bahamas to do a university degree, it's just too distracting. But so you did a degree, so what happened after that? So you said, "I'm going to be an entrepreneur," Did that happen like the month after during the degree, so what happened?

Rob Shavell: Well, I just needed a job, Jeff, like many graduates from uni, and I wanted to get one in New York City, because that was exciting. So I took the first one that I was offered, which turned out to be an interesting one for my career, because it was in market research and was actually a British company called Datamonitor. And they had just come over from the UK, from London, from there to set up their first office in New York. And they only wanted to hire people from these Ivy League universities in the US, because that's the only thing they had heard of. And frankly, they're a little snobbish about it. So they interviewed me, and they said, "Why do you want to be a management consultant?" I had no idea what a management consultant was, but I came up with some kind of answer and it turned and they hired me and it turned out that I didn't really need to be a management consultant, because they were just a market research company anyway, they weren't a management consultancy.

Rob Shavell: So the point about that was I needed a job, I took whatever I could get. I highly recommend any recent graduates maybe do a little bit more research than I did. But it turned out for the best and really in market research, you get a chance to learn while somebody else is paying you. It's in fact, I like to refer to it as a paid form of Graduate School of the paid MBA. You get to talk to business people. You get to write reports. You get to learn about industries. And you get to, in this particular company, Datamonitor, which is still a fairly large enterprise today, you get to make a lot of phone calls and get hung up on often. So I learned sort of the art of, I learned what a lot of salespeople have to learn, which is you have to get on the phone and make your point quickly and effectively. I think that's been helpful as an entrepreneur, a helpful skill to have and you need a bit of a thick skin as well, Jeff.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah, that's you certainly summed up quite nicely about rejection that sort of salesperson has to get used to, don't take it personally and move on quickly and get on the phone. I remember calling, when I started in sales in the corporate with the rise of the PC revolution, I leaped into the middle of that, was selling PCs to government and corporates and two hours in the morning was spent making cold calls, which was my favorite love to hate experience but I survived. Yeah, being able to handle rejections are important skill, I think it's not taking it personally. So you joined them and then you moved on to what was the next thing after that. So because you [crosstalk 00:08:11].

Rob Shavell: I went to SoftBank, which is a big Venture Capital finance company. I wanted to be in the middle of the action in Silicon Valley. And that was really during the first Internet boom, when the web was fairly new and everyone was super excited about it. So I got to meet a lot of the household names that started the first big Internet companies. And it was really an exciting time and yeah, that's what I did next, I was lucky enough to be able to take that experience in market research and convince some of the folks that were giving money away to startups that that was relevant experience to help them research and analyze new startups that were building internet businesses at the time.

Jeff Bullas: Was that Silicon Valley or was that in Boston?

Rob Shavell: Silicon Valley, Mountain View, California, conveniently, very close to where Google's headquarters is now. I think Google is going to be a company we're talking about later with regards to data privacy, but yes, I was right in the middle of Silicon Valley. Of course, I lived in San Francisco because I was young and single and I didn't want to be down in the sleepy suburbs where all the technology companies were located.

Jeff Bullas: So you went and worked for them and I've noticed that you mentioned that you then got involved, I don't know when, but did you start the traveltogether.com. Is that the sort of first leap into being an entrepreneur as such, was that your first entrepreneurial adventure?

Rob Shavell: Yes. When I left Venture Capital I wanted to be and I still wanted to be an entrepreneur. I could have known better I think, but I didn't learn enough about failure investing. But I wanted to start, I love to travel. I am sure a lot of your audience probably loves travel. And it was the time that social networking was just starting, Facebook was just starting and I said to myself, "Hey, why wouldn't we combine the concept of a social network with a concept of an Orbitz and a travel website so that you can plan trips with your friends and family?" Because it's always such a pain to plan those trips and who's going to go and what price they are going to pay and who wants to go where and also meet new people, get advice from people that have been there recently, to a place, a destination, you're considering all that kind of stuff.

Rob Shavell: So we had a lot of fun designing and playing with a new kind of idea which was the sort of a matchup between a travel search engine and social network, and that's what travel together was designed to be. And I am with full transparency, I can tell you that it was a really interesting product, but it didn't really work in practice. So I would say my first foray in entrepreneurship was generally a failure.

Jeff Bullas: Well, I believe that most entrepreneurs that succeed have at least two failures. So welcome to the club. You're not an orphan on that, yes, I had the same issues. Two of my companies I started didn't work out. So it's a badge of honor almost really.

Rob Shavell: Well, you had that sales experience, and you've had some failures and so have I and I think it's as you say, it's par for the course. I think, I would also tell you that having spent a lot of time in California and Silicon Valley, the people that I actually can't stand the most, he worst people in the world, in my opinion, are the people are they sort of the opposite of what you just described, that people have gotten lucky twice. The winners that have succeeded, because they've gotten lucky twice in a row. There is nobody more difficult to deal with than those people. So it does, luck can work both ways. Let me just say that.

Jeff Bullas: It can. So let's move on to where you are today. So I noticed you worked for a company as the Vice President of Product at IdentityForce for a while, which is an identity theft provider. Sounds like that was a bit of the inspiration from that experience to do what you're doing today. So where did the inspiration come from for Abine?

Rob Shavell: Yeah, I think it came from working in the ID, identity protection industry and seeing how bad the product was, in my opinion. And also looking at what was going on the Internet, Facebook, 10 years ago, when myself and a couple much smarter guys from a different university, MIT, started the company. We were looking at all of the social networking happening, Facebook was really expanding and was just about to go do it, go public on the American stock market. And everyone all the investors and everybody was excited. They're so excited about sharing all this information, photos and data, and we take it for granted so much now, it's almost hard to remember how new and exciting it was 10 years ago. And at that point, we thought what will happen after the excitement starts to wear off? What's going to happen then? What's the result of all of this data sharing and social networking going to be?

Rob Shavell: As an entrepreneur, you try to build businesses that anticipate that future happening, really while everybody else is focused on a very different set of problems and they're excited about different things and that was sort of the inspiration for the company. But I understand how bad these old credit card monitoring and credit monitoring companies here in the US called Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, how bad those guys are, they're 30 years old and how antiquated their solutions were. And then combined with this rush for social networking and data sharing, those were the things that got me excited and my co-founders excited about starting a company that stood for consumers being able to control our information and protect our privacy, sort of the opposite of most of what we saw going on.

Jeff Bullas: So what year was it started? Was it around 2013?

Rob Shavell: 2010.

Jeff Bullas: 2010, okay, so yes, it was a bit of a gold rush. It was the wild west of social media. I remember starting my blog back in 2009. And yeah, it was exciting times, everyone piled in, everyone's having a great time, everyone's sharing. But as we know, these platforms grow up, and they become monsters that rule the web, and in a sense, do what they like, until they're called to account. I do remember that was about two or three years ago where Cambridge Analytica unfolded. I see that as maybe one of the tipping points where people go, "Oh, my God, this is not good and I need to protect my data and privacy." So do you see that as one of the major tipping points, Cambridge Analytica?

Rob Shavell: I do. I mean, there have been a number of them here in the United States. I think to some degree globally, as well, we had Edward Snowden, running away from the NSA and revealing all the surveillance secrets all over the globe. And he's still stuck in Russia. We've had these huge here in the US, again, I'm talking about more US centric incidents where we've had these huge data breaches, where the most trusted companies that we have, have lost everybody's information, including our identity, numbers and our data, our credit card information and all these data breaches. But I do agree with you that a Cambridge Analytica thing, when people started to connect the fact that their votes were being influenced, their political views were being influenced by their data they were sharing about the social networking platforms, I think it was astonishing and troubling. And if we rewind to two weeks ago, here in the United States, where we just held our presidential election and considering how close many of the votes were between the two parties.

Rob Shavell: And then backing away from that, and thinking, hey, if companies and advertisers and whoever else can manipulate the messages based on our data that we have unknowingly given out and has been collected by third parties about us. If we can be influenced by that and that influence can be the difference between a win and a loss for a political party, because everything is so divided and so close, 49% or 51%, it started to wake up people, I think on a much bigger scale to how this problem can translate into very, very serious real world results and issues.

Jeff Bullas: I totally agree. I think one big part of the problem with that is that we exist within our own bubbles. What happens is that the social media platforms, especially serve up what they believe you need, which has been scraped from the data that you provide to them. So what will happen is that social media, which was supposed to bring us together, is actually dividing us. Look, I was the eternal optimist, well, I am an eternal optimist. But I left and I went, "Wow, this is fantastic. I can reach the world, I can have a two way conversation real time, and I can change the world and the world will change me." And it was two years ago when I was at the World Youth Forum in Egypt and I was presenting at the roundtable with the president of Egypt. There was the force and against of social media at this Roundtable. I entered that and I was, of course, on the good side of the table as in the optimist side of the table, whereas there are a lot of academics on the other side going well, it's creating real problems both with self esteem, narcissism, depression.

Jeff Bullas: And for me that was a little bit of a wake up call in terms of, I now need to look at it with a little bit more open eyes and look at the whole ecosystem. And over the last two years, (it was two years ago when I spoke at the World Youth Forum, I've taken a little bit more of a pragmatic and realistic view rather than like the rose colored glasses. We like to see how elections are playing out and how the bad actors are using it to influence. We've got foreign countries trying to influence other countries' elections. So I used to have, I was euphoric about social media in 2009, 2010. I used to see America wake up on Twitter. I'm used to having these fun conversations online on social media. But like any technology, technology can be used for good or for evil. Yeah, dynamite used to be used for creating mines, You could blow things up in a quarry and put them in trucks and take them away. Whereas dynamite was eventually used to create industrialized war.

Jeff Bullas: And that's why the Nobel Prize was started because he felt really guilty about what he created. And social media is just the same. We really have an environment that we really do need to put some checks and balances on. So let's go into a little bit of what you guys do to make sure that you do protect privacy, what you see are some of the big issues. So what are some of the biggest issues you see in terms of privacy? And then the next part of that equation is, what can you do about it?

Rob Shavell: I think the issues are ultimately related to how free a society we want to have or any society wants to be any government and citizens want to be free to have fun. I do think that's, to be very philosophical about it, I think that's important. I think, having the freedom for individuals to go do things, that might not be exactly what somebody else considers to be the right thing to do at a high level is important, and not feeling like there's somebody always watching us, every time we're doing something is a big deal. So specifically, what are the problems that losing privacy and sharing all this data are about I think, they're about politics. We've already talked about that. They're about discrimination and decisions getting made about things that we're doing in our lives that we have no idea where the data for the decision actually came from. So if we're getting a new job, and we're rejected from that job, because they did some kind of search about data that we didn't know about, and some algorithm had a conclusion by going through all of our social media and then mapping it to some data profile about our transactions.

Rob Shavell: Again, nothing that we could ever see clearly or have control of and all of a sudden, we didn't get that job or we didn't get that health insurance that we applied for, is not relevant for countries that have guaranteed health insurance. But the point is that I think algorithms are making decisions about us more and more. And the data that they're being provided is often data collected from our web browsing and our accounts and our activities. And it's being collected into profiles by data brokers that we never really are privy to. So I think that's another issue with privacy that affects everyone, more and more every year.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah, I would totally agree with that. What we're seeing now is the intersection of humanity and machine, man and machine and because of the sheer scale of the data, you cannot do it manually. So the algorithms are being invoked to be the servants of us as humans. And I'm starting to get a little concerned at the moment, you've talked about privacy being one of the algorithms used to scrape information about us. We've had, which has not to do with privacy, but it brings up the idea of the algorithm of man and machine the tension between the two. And we're learning how to use this AI machine learning. For example, we do Facebook ads, we do Google ads, as part of what we do in our business. So from time to time, we have an issue with an ad being rejected because of sensitive issues, for example, from Google. And Facebook's getting rejected because of their policy on X. What's happening though is they aren't. The reality is that what we're putting forward has got nothing to do with these sensitive issues and other things.

Jeff Bullas: It's because the machine is not behaving itself. We're still training machines to behave themselves. I think we're at the intersection of man and machine at the moment and we're using the machines and the algorithms to do stuff and they're stuffing up. And I would say that would be happening in the privacy space. It really concerns me because we're at the intersection and early days of AI and algorithms that are running the show. More and more and the humans don't get involved, try to call Facebook and its helpline doesn't really exist. I actually do speak to Google occasionally. But the reality now we have machines as being the gatekeepers, and it is scary. And that would play into the privacy space as well. What are your thoughts on that?

Rob Shavell: I couldn't agree more. And I think, I'm not here to say, technology is either bad or good. I, for example, couldn't be more excited to get a self driving car. I mean, I cannot wait to go to sleep in my vehicle and wake up now in my program destination, that is going to be one of the most thrilling changes I hope to see in my lifetime. And it's all driven by AI, ML and data sharing. So I'm not here as the privacy guy to call out the entire technology industry. I've been an investor, I understand that there's incredible advantages. But I do think we need an equilibrium. Every society in all of our, just as humans, we always need an equilibrium. We need excitement and we need rest. And we need to have boundaries around the algorithms, the decision making, what's private, what's public, and frankly, the last 20 years of the technology industry, particularly in the United States, we've had no equilibrium, we've had no balance.

Rob Shavell: We've said, "Hey Google, hey Facebook, hey Twitter, go off and create an event and use the data as much as you can, however you want." Now, I think the next 10 years, possibly next 20 years, are going to be a return to some kind of discussion, mandate, regulation, and set of technologies. Hopefully, our company is included in that, that help rebalance and provide an equilibrium back to society and back to each one of us, but is looking for both the advantages of sharing our data, as well as more control and transparency over what decisions are being made about our data and who is monetizing.

Jeff Bullas: I totally agree. I think we've gone through the Wild West stage, open slather, go for it. We all got excited, we chased the shiny new toys, we dived in and used them. And we got, oh my God, we now have a situation which is run by someone else, our lives of bubbles information I look for example, it's happening around the world. But in America, for example, there is the polarization of politics and polarization of news. What I try to do is I try and look at, I bring up a website, which is one of the polar opposites of the other, I just want to read what they're saying. So I can have a much more balanced view. Because the danger I think with polarization and also being in bubbles, is that our reality can become incredibly distorted. And that scares me a lot because the machines are designing what you're going to see every day. I do love the randomness of getting something served up to me that's not in my bubble, give me something different, show me exactly.

Rob Shavell: We've got to do a better job at talking to each other all over the world. One of the unique advantages you have and I have as an entrepreneur, is we get to talk to people all over the world. And I get to go to China and speak to entrepreneurs there and you get to go to Egypt and in doing so we realize there's a lot of different people out there. But it's also a way to build bridges and relationships that are so necessary. And if we stay in our little social networks, and just hear the same messages repeated amongst the same communities of people, it's a recipe for disaster and you get a lot of divisiveness in politics and you get a lot of divisiveness all across the world, when really the technologies that we're developing should enable much better communication and communication starts with individual relationships. They're able to bridge these cultures and geographies and things like that.

Rob Shavell: So again, I'm hopeful that like you, I'm an optimist, I hope technology can help us. But I do see a lot of problems that entrepreneurs like myself and others can try to help solve so that we don't go in a single direction here, because it doesn't feel like the direction that we're going in is the best one. The one that we all wanted when we started this social networking, cloud data sharing an internet 2.0 journey 10 years ago.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah, we all. We all got excited. We rushed into it with excitement. And reality now has crept into the equation, we're seeing the corporatization and the industrialization of social media. One of my key phrases I used to use was social media allowed me to bypass the gatekeepers to get my message out to the world. The reality is they've now become the gatekeepers and that's a bit scary and especially and the machines have also become the gatekeepers.

Rob Shavell: It's a problem and one piece of good news, I would say is if you study the history of technology, or just history at all, you realize this is nothing new really, there's a pattern, we're all following a pattern that's happened before. I was looking up the history of the seatbelt for a presentation I was giving last year. And it's got an interesting history and a pattern that I shared in my presentation that I just remembered about as we were talking. And in the United States, the cars first didn't come with seat belts, there was no consideration for safety at all. Then decade went by or more and they finally started putting in seat belts then finally, there was a law that said, "Hey, cars have to come with seatbelts." And then little by little at least in the United States, they actually passed a law briefly, we only pass for like two years that said, "Your engine of your car will not start unless your seatbelt is clipped in." And at that point, people just said, "Hey, screw you," or at least Americans said, "Hey, screw that. We can't deal with that, it's too much protection."

Jeff Bullas: That's not freedom.

Rob Shavell: It's not freedom. So they repeal that law and the auto manufacturers never did anything that's significant to tell, to mandate protection again, and so I think that there's an analogy there between what needs to happen in the data privacy conversation and I'm optimistic that it will. I think that it's already started in Europe with the GDPR. And it's starting here in the United States, and hopefully in Australia and other geographies as well. So I'm optimistic that we'll get there. And it's a process and we shouldn't forget that in a way, excitement for new technology. And then the reality setting in and having a mature adult conversation about what the parameters really need to be is all part of something that's been done many, many times before.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah, I agree. And that's we're just having this is a natural evolution of any technology that goes from excitement to out of control to being brought back to control. And this is a generation. 25 years. That's the scary part, it is just going to take time? So what do you see as some of the big solutions to the problems? Now, a number one problem is privacy data. The other one is not just that the other part of that problem is being some people just want to be anonymous. So let's look at privacy first, what do you think are some of the solutions that need to be put in place to help people control their privacy?

Rob Shavell: Yeah, well, when we looked at the problem as entrepreneurs, we thought there were three big issues to solve. And entrepreneurs, you always want to solve the biggest problem you can. So one problem was data leaking out when you're online that you never see. Data leaking out from your phone, when you're visiting a website or your web browser. So there was data being sort of data collected about us that we never... invisible. That was the first problem that we wanted to solve. The second problem was data that we're actually giving out, that we know are giving out, when we share our data, when we create accounts, when we buy things, we're constantly sharing our personal information with other companies, with third parties. So that was the second problem we wanted to solve. And then we didn't think about it.

Rob Shavell: But our customers came to us and said, "Well, there's a third problem, guys. My data is already out there. I've already been sharing my data. I've already been online. Why is doing the right thing now, going to help if my data is already out there?" And so for each of these problems, we created a technological solution. So we have we had a product called Do Not Track Me, which stopped the invisible tracking that happens when you're on your browser with all these different ad networks and third parties. Then we created a solution called Mask Me which let you provide anonymous or alias or disposable or what we call conveniently in the COVID era we call masked credentials.

Rob Shavell: So you can create a masked email address in our software, a masked phone number or even a masked credit card, which are working variations of those things that allow you to communicate by email or phone or make a transaction with a credit card, without actually revealing your real personal email address or your real personal mobile number or your credit card that your bank gave you, you can use proxy or alias information. So that was the second solution. And then we created a service called Delete Me, which goes out and finds that information that's already out there about you that you can google if you google your name, and perhaps the city that you live in. And in particular, it's a problem in countries like the United States, where we've got a very active data broker industry that's constantly scraping and selling and creating profiles about everybody.

Rob Shavell: And we go, if you sign up or delete me, we go out and find where your information is collected into profiles of these data broker sites and then we go remove that information from each one of those sites and monitor it all year long. So we've tried to create in our little area of the world, we've tried to create a bunch of solutions that allow you to proactively protect your data and to also monitor the data, that's out there about you. So that's how we view the world and the services that we can provide. But there's many others I'm encouraged to say, there're many other new exciting privacy companies that people can use to help them get back some control over their data.

Jeff Bullas: That's a great summation of the three big issues, and the three solutions. And that I think, will help a lot of people. Now, I think, just to maybe wrap it up here, let's peer into the future little bit. So where do you see the future of the Internet and privacy and data? Where do you see the future?

Rob Shavell: I think the next 10 years, they're going to be interesting in the sense that everyone... I'm biased, I'm an entrepreneur, I'm in the privacy space, so take what I say with a grain of salt, if you will. But I do think that all of us who are increasingly online, increasingly using our phones for everything that we do, whether we're in the car, using maps, or on Zoom calls, because of a pandemic, or whatever. I think we're all going to be more aware of the data that we're generating as we're living our a greater percentage of our lives using digital technologies. So that's just a fact and I think it's increasing. So I think the awareness of what data is being captured about our lives is going to increase. I think that there'll be positives and negatives from that increased amount of data generated about us. I think that regulation by governments all over the world is going to be an important first step in allowing us to see that data for the first time.

Rob Shavell: We don't know what data Facebook has about us, we just know what Facebook shows us on our page when we log in. So the government's passing laws that give consumers over the next 10 years the ability to see our data and control it, and even correct it or remove it if we want to, is part of what I see being the future of privacy, and of data and our digital lives. We hope that Abine and other companies spring up to make it easier for consumers to finally take the new rights that they have, that are granted to them by the law, the new laws that are passed, and actually enjoy or take advantage of those rights in practice in their daily lives. And ultimately, I don't think the future is going to look all that different than the present. But I do think that consumers will have more visibility and control over that increased amount of data that's floating out there in the digital cloud about us. So it's not a soundbite but that's ultimately how I see the next 10 years playing out.

Jeff Bullas: I'll ask one last question, which sits in that space. How do you see the role of tension between man and machine being part of that next 10 years playing out?

Rob Shavell: This is a big debate in Silicon Valley right now, my friends that live there, when we go out and get a beer, they're all talking about whether AI is going to truly, "Takeover" for human beings. I think my personal view is, in a lot of domains, specific domains where pattern recognition, it can be done just a million times faster than the human brain, you're going to see a lot of successful implementations of AI, where decisions that people made are made better than humans. But I think what we need is very, very clear boundaries for that, and rules so that you can call Facebook, if you have a problem, and you can intervene in a decision made by a robot in effect, and you have rights under the law in order to do that. So that's what I see happening. I do not see what they call AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) happening anytime soon, which is the notion of a truly artificial brain, something that is much smarter than a human, that thinks like a human.

Rob Shavell: I don't see that happening. I'm a little skeptical about it. But it's hotly debated in Silicon Valley. I'll leave you with one interesting story about the use of AI in decision making. And I was thinking about it when you said, "Hey, Australia is originally a prison colony." And I spent some time, and I'm not trying to make money, trying to help inner city kids and doing some philanthropy around that. And these kids are in and out of the judicial system and we have, as you may know, we lock a lot of people off in America. And there's this complicated, antiquated system of courts and trials and Habeas Corpus that we inherited from England, like you guys did. One of the areas that people are interested in reforming with AI is the law, and how courts review cases and who's sentenced and why. It's going to be one area of many that I think everyone should be very interested in watching play out over the next 10 years. Because it may not be as simple as we think it is to figure out what's good and what's bad.

Rob Shavell: I was on Twitter, debating something about this with someone, and one African American said, US citizen said, I can't wait for AI to replace humans in the court system, because we're finally going to get a fair trial. So I tell that story, just to make everyone think of all of the different, maybe counterintuitive ways that AI is going to transform, both potentially in positive ways and in negative ways, various domains in our lives.

Jeff Bullas: I think that's very well summed up and as humans, we have an incredible amount of bias created by our backgrounds, our friends, family, culture. And what you've essentially said is that a machine can just bring a level of rationality to a decision that removes that bubble, that I suppose bias that African American mentioned he would like to see removed so that he can live even as free life as he possibly can. I think that hopefully we can do that with technology and we're on a journey of evolution of technology and humanity and the tension between them. And hopefully, we'll find a balance somewhere in the middle and that's what the dow is all about. It's about living in the middle tension between the extremes that we need to work out. Thank you very much for your time. It's been an absolute pleasure, Rob, and I look forward to catching up in real life once the planes are flying again, internationally. So thank you very much.

Rob Shavell: Indeed. Pleasure, thanks for having me, Jeff.

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