2018 was a tumultuous year for global trends in technology. Here’s a quick wrap-up of the key media and news events that we noticed during the year:

Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal

In a fascinating tale of political intrigue and secretive data-sharing practices, it was revealed that Facebook’s platform had granted access to third-party ‘quiz’ applications, one of which has been used by a researcher at Cambridge University to harvest information, which was later sold to political campaigns in the United States. You can read our previous Algorithm pieces on this here, or listen to privacy expert Dali Kaafar’s commentary on this here.

The implementation of GDPR

The European Union’s ‘General Data Protection Regulation’, or GDPR, came into effect in 2018, introducing a range of broad and significant changes to privacy law in an effort to protect information created and held by citizens in the EU. There were plenty of flow-on effects into other countries, like Australia, as large tech companies adjusted their systems to adhere to these laws. Check out the series below – a range of interviews with Data61’s CEO, Adrian Turner, on issues around privacy and regulation.

Apple becomes first $1t company

As reported in ABC news Australia, “Apple has became the first $1 trillion publicly listed US company, crowning a decade-long rise fuelled by its ubiquitous iPhone that transformed it from a niche player in personal computers into a global powerhouse spanning entertainment and communications”. The rapid growth of tech giants in the US lies in stark contrast to Australia’s perceived lag in seizing on the technology boom. Read CEO Adrian Turner’s latest in the Australian Financial Review, on Australia’s missed opportunities.

Uber’s fatal autonomous vehicle accident

A tragic incident in Arizona, in March 2018, saw an Uber-operated autonomous vehicle collide with and kill a pedestrian crossing a road. Though the incident is still under investigation, it was preliminary found that the test-driver of the car was distracted – watching TV Show ‘The Voice’ – during the testing of the vehicle. It was a stark reminder of what it means to engage in early tests of new technology, and how efforts to potentially reduce human injury and death through the equipping of vehicles with advanced sensors and reaction capabilities can itself bring about new risks that must be managed carefully.

Read about our work on the vision systems that help autonomous vehicles detect and classify objects here.

Amazon opens its first automated supermarket

A fascinating new style of supermarket trialled by Amazon in the US – with no checkouts, it uses cameras and sensors to track each customers, and to identify the items they’re selecting. Dig into Data61’s Insights Team leader, Stefan Hajkowicz, speaking on ABC’s The Drum in April about the future of work:

Data61 Highlights

At Data61, we’ve focused on high-impact science and technology research and funding, through our own staff and  our extensive research network. Here are a few highlights: