Samson Yoseph Esayas - Researcher of the Month

Samson Yoseph Esayas

The King of Norway gave him a gold medal for his research on how Google and Facebook use and abuse their data on us.

Why is your field of study important?

I study how big technology companies collect and use our personal information. This is important for two reasons.

First tech companies have more power over us than any other companies in history because they know every little detail about us. They use this power to nudge and push us into making the choices they want us to make and maximize their own profits with little regard for the impact on societies and individuals.

Second this access to detailed information about us has earned tech companies a lot of money. They have grown very big, and it is difficult for governments to keep track of what they do. This allows them manipulate markets by buying up and crippling competitors.

What do you want to change in business or society?

I am a legal scholar, so I first and foremost want to influence policy making in data protection and competition law.

I also think my research can be used by businesses who want to take privacy seriously by seeing it as a competitive advantage.

Maybe it's far-fetched, but I want a future where corporations compete as intensely for protecting our data as they currently do for collecting it.

What is the biggest challenge in your work?

How to enable public oversight of tech companies, without getting in the way of innovation and technological progress.

When was the last time you made a mistake, and what did you learn?

If I am thinking of the most recent one, it would be missing the deadline for applying to use on of the BI company cabins this year, which was a bit disappointing. I guess I don’t have to spell out the lesson from this one, do I?

Who is your biggest role model?

I do not have any specific person as a role model but if I must pick one, it would be my mother, Kiros Baraki, who was a single mum raising three kids and was a symbol of hard work and perseverance.

Published 13. October 2021

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