Everything we do, everywhere we go, a data trail is following us, recording our actions, processing our data, and it’s going to intensify in the next several years presenting the question, will we have to pay for privacy? Yes, pay for privacy. Sounds ridiculous, and it is, but those that can afford privacy solutions will pay for it. Let me explain a little more.
Everyone has information they should protect, even if it’s not obvious. That’s because anything you say, do, buy, post, etc. is recorded. How fast you drive can be tracked through your smartphone. Where you go can be tracked by GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth and the growing number of cameras in neighborhoods, homes and at work. How you talk to your spouse and kids can be picked up by the explosion of digital assistants. Have you noticed how often people are now talking to devices vs. typing? Well, all of that information can be capture and analyzed in various different ways.
Voice and Video: Your Primary Interface
The days of texting, typing or tapping are slowly coming to an end. If this hasn’t dawned on you yet, not worries, but know that voice and video will be your primary interface for communicating. I believe all know the benefits of using our voice and video to communicate but I’m here to educate on some of the potential concerns.
Did you know that Google and Amazon have filed patents to understand your breathing pattern and coughing which could be tied to your health? The intonation of your voice to understand your mental state? Do we really want companies and computers analyzing every word and making decisions about us without our knowledge? They do it today based on our clicks and posts, why wouldn’t they do it with our voice and video in the future?
Furthermore, visual monitoring for security and marketing purposes will continue to rise in public places. Cameras are now being used to understand traffic flows at malls, a customer’s idle time in front of store merchandise, and more. Tie in advanced image recognition services – like Amazon Rekognition, that can identify objects, people, text, scenes, and activities – it’s easy to imagine every public space knowing who you are through voice and facial recognition. Sound familiar? It should because this is what China is doing right now with 20 million cameras. Plus, China uses data like this to build Social Scores, similar to Credit Scores, but it’s based on your behavior not your financials. Check it out, it's Black Mirror-ish.
All this digital information can be gathered, aggregated, sold or shared however the data owner pleases. Sure, on one hand a digital assistant might solve a task faster by talking or a camera might catch a criminal, but that data could also be used to start profiling you in questionable ways. We’ve already seen the glaring effects of profiling happening in the world with minorities, foreigners, pro-gun and pro-life advocates, the LGBT community, etc. What data is gathered and how profiling will work in the future is unknown, but it will come from data you produce. And if you connect to the internet, have a smartphone or basically walk outside, you create data.
Technology as a whole is still in its infancy. If I were to relate our current state of technology to the stage of a human’s life, we’re just opening our eyes and moving our limbs. I’m pretty happy with our current state of technology as we can pretty much control it, avoid it or embrace it however we see fit while living our daily lives. But I’m concerned for the future because technology will gather more and more data proactively without giving us much of a choice to control it or avoid it. Here’s why.
Gone are the days when people couldn’t get ahold of you 24 hours a day, due to the influx of smartphones and internet connectivity. Soon the days of privately walking down the street and nobody knowing who you are will be gone. Potentially everything we do will become a digital profile of what we said, shared, liked, commented on, where we traveled, etc. We could be monitored and analyzed for work, social and governmental reasons and that’s concerning.
What To Do
Listen, I know some (all?) of the above sounds doom and gloom, which is what happens when you discuss technology concerns versus technology benefits. Maybe none of this will happen but the trend lines, social movements, and need for “more technology” should at least give all people pause to think where we’re heading.
We’re in a tough bind as large corporations are creating new technologies that provide amazing benefit and a better, frictionless user experience that we’ll all want. Example: I never want to go back to taking cabs versus Lyft and the tradeoff is Lyft tracking me. Do I like it? No. But it’s way more convenient and a better experience. Know that for every technology advancement to make your life easier, it will also gather more and more data.
The underlying messages you should take away from reading this are: First, technology isn’t a trend, it’s a way of life. We’re never going to revert back to the days of no cell phones or computers – ain’t happening.
Second, think and speak. Before you get a new gadget with cool added benefits, understand the tradeoff you’re making and how it could affect the people around you. Share your thoughts, ideas, concerns and suggestions. No one person is going to shape our technology future, but with meaningful discussions we might be able to thread the needle of technology benefits and user privacy. If we don’t, know there is a good chance you’ll pay (either with money or altered lifestyle) for privacy.