Succumbing to Orwell : Apathy towards Privacy
Life changed with mobile phones. When I write I switch it off. I don’t keep it on silent, as otherwise I suffer a guilt feeling. Peculiar, isn’t it ? A mobile phone getting human qualities and we treat it almost as our better half. Much better than our better halves in most cases. For complying with the requirements of 911 came location tracker, followed by social networks on smart devices. We are now exposed from all sides. The adventures of Tom Sawyer no longer can happen.
Social networks seem to think that users want to be over the top social in every aspect of their lives. Google thinks you should want to talk with everyone you ever email whilst Facebook seems to think you should share all your personal data so “friends” can see it. Yes, I understand that there is always the option to say no, that it’s down to ones personal feelings, but most people suffer from an apathy and do it indifferently. In an analysis of more than 522,000 apps over the past year, focused on the ‘intrusive behaviors’ the app developer may have included in the product, such as tracking location, reading contact lists, and leaking your email address or device ID, it was found that iOS applications appear to be more focused on harvesting private data than the ones designed for Android. One did acknowledge that Android apps state all the permissions needed at installation time and there is no way to change the settings afterwards, while iOS permissions are requested at run-time.
We now live in the “Internet of Things” where technologies interconnect and help us in our daily lives. They don’t just do what we tell them to — they learn from one another and from us. Devices are helping people be more productive, with less fuss and time wasted. The challenge in this new world is striking that balance between what is engaging and what can be intrusive. Technology should intuitively create a new clutter-free, curated environment and a productive way of living.
Heineken, the Dutch brewing giant, is using insights from its global tie-ups with Google and Facebook to develop real-time marketing initiatives to target consumers on mobile devices. Nike + is making waves. But stretch these boundaries a bit more and some of these start intruding.
Nest thermostat ( a Google company) tracks people’s movement around their houses to figure out how warm they like to keep their rooms. Facebook offers an app that turns on the microphone of a person’s device and listens to the sounds it picks up , apparently to better target music and TV choices. RFID bracelets in Disney parks monitor the wearer’s actions and transactions in the Disneyworld. Inobnoxious tit bits of information like books we read, movies we like, music we listen to and words we frequently use can paint a detailed portrait of a consumer. Depending on Facebook’s likes a data scientist can figure out your sexual orientation . Push messages are a constant irritant and so are advertisements on mobile. Smart TVs will detect your retina attention span on electronic advertisements and start monetising from agencies. Our Orwellian fears may just turn out to be true in near future.
Whats next ? The market for wearable technology is set to grow from $1.6 billion to $5 billion, according to a recent research by Gartner. Technologies such as Google Glass and smart watches are gradually making their way into the workplace. But the intrusive nature of these devices, which could be used by employees to take clandestine photographs or videos, are ringing alarm bells.
We are now in an age of continuous surveillance and this is based on our continued willingness to help companies intrude into our privacy. Technology loves to push boundaries and the boundaries accede. Stems from being apathetic towards privacy.