Re­mem­ber, you are be­ing tracked

The Queens County Advance - - OPINION - Rus­sell Wanger­sky East­ern Pas­sages Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 30 Saltwire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@ thetele­ — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

Who says the un­ex­am­ined life isn’t worth liv­ing? Well, Socrates, ac­tu­ally.

But that may ac­tu­ally be moot. Soon, the un­ex­am­ined life might well be im­pos­si­ble.

It’s a tru­ism to point out that help­ful tools that keep track of your move­ments don’t al­ways work in your favour; that if you have lo­ca­tion ser­vices ac­ti­vated on your phone, your move­ments can be used against you in a court of law. Worse still, if you’re car­ry­ing a com­pany phone and you have lo­ca­tion ser­vices ac­ti­vated, your com­pany can see if you are telling the truth when you call in sick by check­ing your phone to see if it makes a trip to a nearby beach. They own the phone and the data you’ve help­fully col­lected for them.

Your car, if it’s new enough, al­ready tracks the five min­utes or so be­fore an ac­ci­dent, and po­lice can down­load your speed, how long be­fore you hit the brakes, and a host of other in­for­ma­tion from your ve­hi­cle’s com­puter mod­ule.

In Ohio a week or so ago, a judge al­lowed data from a pace­maker to be en­tered into ev­i­dence, when it showed that a man’s ver­sion of what hap­pened dur­ing a fire at his house was in­com­pat­i­ble with his heart rate at the time of the fire.

There are other, scarier col­lec­tions of in­for­ma­tion: irobot’s Rhoomba ro­bot vacuum cleaner col­lects in­for­ma­tion and de­vel­ops a map of your house as it wan­ders around, a map that irobot wants to sell to mega-in­for­ma­tion col­lec­tors like Google and Ap­ple. Here’s Colin An­gle, chief ex­ec­u­tive of irobot, talk­ing to Reuters news ser­vice: “There’s an en­tire ecosys­tem of things and ser­vices that the smart home can de­liver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has al­lowed to be shared,” said An­gle.

I’m not sure I want an ecosys­tem of my house’s “rich map” done by my vacuum.

There are con­cerns that some smart tele­vi­sions are too smart for their own good — smart enough to lis­ten in on, and trans­mit, con­ver­sa­tions that take place in front of them.

Cus­tomer loy­alty cards, at least those with ra­dio-fre­quency iden­ti­fi­ca­tion chips (RFID), can track you around your favourite drug store, col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion not only about what you buy, but how long you spend in dif­fer­ent parts of the store and what dis­plays catch your eye.

Now, a Wis­con­sin com­pany is tak­ing that even fur­ther: the vend­ing ma­chine com­pany Three Two Mar­ket wants to im­plant RFID chips lit­er­ally in their work­ers, with the grain-of-rice-sized chip in­serted un­der the skin be­tween thumb and fore­fin­ger. (Be­ing “chipped” is vol­un­tary with the com­pany at this point, but hon­estly — pri­vacy erodes as soon as the door is opened.)

The idea? To let em­ploy­ees log in to com­put­ers or do things like buy snacks with­out hav­ing to use pass­words and the like. The­o­ret­i­cally, though, it could also be­come an al­ways-watch­ing re­mote boss; how long did you sit down for? How long were you in the break room? How many smoke breaks did you take? Were you re­ally work­ing in the store­room?

In a state­ment, Three Two Mar­ket CEO Todd Westby pre­dicted the tech­nol­ogy could be­come pop­u­lar among com­pa­nies. “Even­tu­ally, this tech­nol­ogy will be­come stan­dard­ized al­low­ing you to use this as your pass­port, pub­lic tran­sit, all pur­chas­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, etc.,” he told Reuters.

Sure — and while you use it as your pass­port, it might well track your foot­steps, your pur­chases, when you are home, and when you’re away.

Here’s a clos­ing thought. If a lit­tle in­for­ma­tion can be a dan­ger­ous thing, what ex­actly can all of your in­for­ma­tion be?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.