For the London Free Press – December 23, 2013 – Read this at lfpress.com
How much privacy and control of your personal information are you willing to give up to get useful information in return?
Technology is becoming increasingly integrated with us — both psychologically and physically. And its use increasingly requires us to trust others with sensitive information about us.
This new age of information gathering has been described by author Robert Scoble as the “age of context.” Scoble said, “It’s scary. Over the freaky line, if you will.”
He predicts that this “freaky line” will create a new kind of digital divide between those who will and will not cross it
Take for example Google Glass, a wearable computer with a head-mounted display. Essentially it is a pair of glasses that displays Internet information hands-free, all using voice commands. This may sound relatively harmless, but can give away detailed information on your daily routine, habits and haunts.
For some, that is a bit too much. More and more of our personal and intimate information will be collected from devices and converted into usable data — both for the user and others.
Users will get valuable information such as traffic, nearby attractions and the latest deals through behavioural advertising, which is a method of tracking consumers’ activities on websites to personalize advertisements.
There is a price to getting this information. That price is that our information has to go to a mothership somewhere, and that mothership now has information about us.
As users move along the continuum from personal computers to mobile devices to wearable computers, the ability to track user’s activities moves with it. Instead of tracking websites visited, wearable devices will provide advertisers with information about the user’s physical location, movements, interactions, health, heart rate, temperature, purchases, photographs taken, and whatever other data is being collected.
Some issues that arise include what that information will be used for, the extent to which it is kept anonymous, how long it will be kept, and who will have access to it. Privacy laws don’t fit nicely into this subject. It isn’t clear what is and what is not a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Manufacturers and service providers may argue that simply purchasing and using these types of devices amounts to implied consent for the use and dissemination of your personal information. But it’s not that simple.
For now, the choice is yours. You can choose to use these devices, or not. If you choose to use them, you do have some control over how your information is used and where it goes. But it’s not always easy to figure out or understand, and it may mean giving up using certain features.
If you choose to not use them, you keep a firmer grasp on your personal information, but you tend to miss out on new technologies and the benefits they bring.
This is the “freaky line” that you must choose to cross . . . or not.