People You May Know. An FT Film written by James Graham

We gave up our privacy to fight Covid-19, can we get it back? An FT film starring Lydia West and Arthur Darvill in collaboration with Sonia Friedman Productions and supported by Luminate. An interrogation scene explores how Covid-19 has exposed the tension between the need for data to track and trace, and the right to privacy and justice.

I just want to reassure you this isn’t about blame it’s about using what happened to all of us this thing we all just lived through those of us who did live through it it’s about using it as a teaching moment i’ve always hated that phrase me too basically you’re not on trial your company is one of many nationwide who signed up to this project to map basic human

Behaviors during the pandemic both you know academia research also to help us plan for future crises using all the uh sorry us being oh just your average software enterprise company one of the many private firms contracted during the crisis to help the government in gathering data to inform policy to find the worst lockdown offenders you mean you’re trying to

Pinpoint who’s most responsible uh that’s one way of looking at it what’s the other way of looking at it who was most irresponsible how was it for you how is my existential dystopia yeah is that right how was yours yeah well my fiancee decided to ride the last one out with his sick mum so you know not amazing amazing but fine the third british lockdown came into

Force on 6th of january 2021 you began working from home you’re a barrister junior four years called family law cool well like a lot of firms you all installed software to monitor when people were away from their desks you were pretty consistent at first but then your patterns started to um change did they yeah yeah that first week your smartwatch recorded you

Going on a nice run at seven every morning wait you have that 4k which took you an average of 21 minutes not bad but then from january the 18th onwards you stopped that routine and you started to leave the house at night instead which is still okay it’s just is it okay because it feels like i might be being made to feel like it’s not okay like i said this is

Not about judgment it’s about patterns you live with your fiance jason and you rent a spare room to allison you got my housemate’s name from my smartwatch your cohabitant’s names are in the local authorities database our firm has partnered up with many different bodies as part of our work to collate both public and private consumer data yeah it’s just this is

Starting to feel like an interrogation only you’re not the police it’s not an interrogation although we have partnered with the police and actually actually this isn’t me being but um the police now come to software companies like us for intel not the other way around to the evening of january the 19th then you left the house in non-running gear without your

Smartwatch or your smartphone almost um almost like i don’t know like you didn’t want to be tracked yet you were tracking me and no one was tracking you then this is retrospective historic data how’d you know i wasn’t wearing my smart watch a door can i don’t have a door cam you don’t have a door cam but your neighbor has one a ring door can it caught you ring

Just gave you access to any the police partnered with ring we partnered with the police look the point is rachel can i ask you where you went and why just for this study that’s all we didn’t pick you up via any facial recognition on cctv probably because you were wearing a mask very good although i’m not gonna lie that has been a bit of a nightmare in my field

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Let me tell you i have no idea what who the hell remembers this stuff you repeated these little jaunts uh for about a week sometimes with your smartwatch on now maybe if you got to take it off easily done uh you went to roughly this location what was that who was there you know what i think i think you missed your fiance do you i think this was an extraordinary

Traumatic time and it was hard the real world was shuttered up leaving only the digital world and its offer of new temptations i’m not a psychologist or a sociologist i’m an analyst but judging by the data and frankly my own personal observations i think the boundaries were crossed by many of us by most of us understandably even the prudish brits with messages

That become images that become videos that become live videos are hidden fantasies and exposed faces even though we vaguely know deep down that these images we send they’re not going straight to that other person’s device even though that’s what it feels like you know intimate one-to-one connection no they’re instead being handed over to a tech company to store

On a server that’s probably in a different country with different laws where it will sit possibly forever we know that but we’re also only human i think it’s also because the home changed too didn’t it literally the nature of what the home had been for centuries gone within weeks from a private place sanctuary to a public space of work and we were forced to

Welcome anyone and everyone into it through a screen but i i didn’t send anything to jason oh are you really sitting here suggesting i betrayed my my fiance we know you started to develop huge feelings of anxiety and guilt about something okay you can read all the location settings and data sets you like you can’t get inside my head my heart actually when you

Return home from that first evening away from the house your smart home thermostat registered you showering for a full 20 minutes trying to wash something away excuse me that night and many nights following you had a deeply restless sleep you asked alexa to list covered symptoms on the morning of the 21st at 9 34 and alexa returned results to you from the nhs

Website that could have been my housemate it was your voice and by the way your alexa your echo your siri your google doc they are always listening why i wonder did you have to check symptoms if you hadn’t been close to anyone outside your house and why were you googling questions around forgiveness rachel at 3am in the morning how to forgive can you forgive someone

Who hurt you jesus christ this is some stasi level and then of course the contact tracing app which all beautiful citizens downloaded well that tells us that you were in the presence of someone who also had the app for sustained periods a man who wasn’t your fiance a man who when you were in his company that first night that you were in his physical proximity your

Heartbeat went up and up and up so you see it is possible to see into your heart maybe even to see what you refuse to acknowledge yourself i no longer consent this is beyond the remit you have no right right we are trying to understand what motivated people to break the restrictions and if it’s intentionally breaking if it’s love or lust or fear or anything we

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Have to plan to mitigate these human flaws coded into us feelings that make us act against our own best interest and the interest of those around us i mean was it us is there something in our national parking around people without any right highest infection rates in the world why us why in the third wave was there a spike of infections in your area who was that

Who was the patient zero of this story whose behavior started this spread have you ever seen those maps in school books of how the great fire of london broke out and spread everything future school children studying the great pandemic of 2020 you’re going to be able to draw their own you’re blaming normal people of person-to-person contact we have it all it’s

All stored every human interaction ever spread of misinformation who’s the typhoid mary of this story responsible for all those extra deaths responsible for the pain of losing someone of not being able to visit your your father in hospital but to say goodbye to him over a phone instead as you hear his last breaths ebbing away over a speakerphone apple reminder

To stand and breathe so so i know i specialize in family law not whatever this is oh i think no i think citizens have the right to express some or some unease at the way during a pandemic technology companies rode in to help governments all over the world often free of charge to collate and gain access to citizen data to beat a virus with little scrutiny or

Oversight where was the vote the public consultation in letting amazon pair with the nhs a private company our health data but that’s the point isn’t it about algorithms no one really knows how they work even though in an increasingly automated world ai is making decisions for us all the time what our insurance premium should be or a-level results or predictive

Policing or even prison sentencing and release all of it and accountable is it accountable what if say say i had a friend that had a daughter that lived in a residential street that one day a max application discovered was quiet and redirected cars down it to avoid a build-up of traffic elsewhere and my friend’s daughter she she runs out into the road because it

Was quiet yesterday so she thinks it’s going to be quiet today and she’s knocked down and she’s killed and my friend wants justice but it is denied to her because you cannot take an algorithm to court okay what we do know about these so-called digital gods playing with our lives is that unlike what you said earlier they do contain all the human flaws of the people

Who coded and created them was it katie o’neill cathy o’neil who said algorithms are simply opinions embedded in code facial technology didn’t pick up my face because of my mask all because it’s up to 40 less effective at recognizing black women than white men and you’re asking me to submit myself to the infallibility of a system that doesn’t allow anyone to pop

Open the hood and take a look inside i i do not submit myself to it to any of it not everything can be known from data people are individual we are complex you blame the government in outsourcing its decisions to date companies like ours you outsource every day of your life you’re like this so try that where to eat what to watch you you found your fiance on a

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Dating app you outsourced your love oh pick me someone pick me you handed over your own human agency so nice speech but most people very willingly during that pandemic sacrificed a few very outdated notions of privacy so that the algorithms could do what people couldn’t track the virus and save lives and i know that you’d like to think that everyone’s an individual

But you’re not i’m not i fall into a predictable pattern of behaviors based on 100 different data points based on my race my age my class the things i watch you think you won in a million congratulations on a planet of 8 billion that means there are more than 8 000 people exactly like you did you break the restrictions because of a relationship with this man all

You can measure is what people do you can’t know why there is no why good enough did you did you have an affair with joe a man whose facebook profile you clicked on 28 times in 24 hours a man who went on to contract i don’t trust this but not because not because your algorithms are good enough because they’re too good i mean imagine imagine can you imagine a

Social media platform so good i recommended to you people that you may know that it recommends you are out of nowhere when you’re nowhere near ready the man who sexually and emotionally abused you over many months and years who during your relationship gaslit and tormented and manipulated you and yet you somehow managed to extricate yourself from to survive only

To be faced with the face of that person you’ve been trying to forget people you may know i’ll say and where was my control where was my agency that’s that’s who you uh you went to see why to confront him i think you’ll know how you’ll react i still under the guidelines based on previous behaviors you did this so you’ll likely do that you think you’ll want some

Sort of you know justice revenge but when you’re into their world when you read what they’re writing see them struggling i mean like we all were posting thoughts about ending it all and seeing no one come to their aid well sometimes you can surprise even yourself perhaps the way to move on from something done by someone perhaps helping to save that person might

Just be the most surprising way of surviving that thing yourself how to forgive people are unpredictable possibly but viruses aren’t i’ll note for the record that you made a personal decision to break the restrictions to possibly save a life but i’m sorry that may have killed 20 more by transmitting the virus and that’s why the data knows best and that’s why

We must hand ourselves over to it as emotional beings we are simply unable to measure that equivalence ourselves so your audit trail go into the system and an automated verdict delivered to you in due course will i be able to appeal yeah of course although the outcome will be the same algorithms they don’t tend to change their minds would you like an uber

Home recommended i walk well if that’s what it recommends foreign you

Transcribed from video
People You May Know. An FT Film written by James Graham By Financial Times

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