Last night I blogged about Digital Rights and how these are not the vision of a dystopian future that they are occasionally mis-interpreted as being. What I didn’t discuss during the article was that to a large degree, we perhaps are living in the foundations of the very nightmare Orwell envisaged.
For years we have heard rumours of living in a “nanny state”. Children are prevented from being able to act unsupervised in certain environments where there was previously complete freedom, there are cameras on seemingly every corner watched by unseen eyes, our private lives are scrutinised via the medium of social media, email providers and search engines scan our internet interaction and, as so many have reported on recently there is enormous amounts of evidence showing how we are spied on every day by the government. Do wen suppose for one moment that just because the American and British governments have been caught in the act that the list is restricted to those two? I am working on the assumption that this is not the case but maybe they are better at getting away with it?
An article out today in The guardians technology section discusses how companies such as Cisco are wanting to take the monitoring of children (and others) that stage further by utilising the emergence of wearable tech to track our movements and alert the parents / guardians of any deviation to the pre-defined path we have laid out for them.
By utilising the devices under discussion, we can be alerted to those items which can bring harm to us, alert our partners to deviations to our route home, track our whereabouts at any given moment, report our behaviours to search engines, social media sites and marketing companies so that we can be served tailored adverts specific to our requirements.
Now don’t get me wrong on this, many of the behaviours I have listed we have already submitted to. Every time we search Google they collect data on us. Every time we post to Facebook or Twitter the same occurs. Amazon, Ebay, supermarkets, they all track our shopping behaviours so that next time we visit their stores we can be guided directly to the products that matter to us without being exposed to the ones that we don’t care about.
We spend a lot of time arguing about the reasons companies amend their privacy policies in order to try and extract more information about our private lives in order to tailor their services that we completely neglect to act on the ones that matter.
Back in 2008 there was a huge outcry within the UK over the online advertiser Phorms proposal and subsequent trials surrounding the automated scanning of all content pages by use of Deep Packet Inspection to collect and analyse data for the purposes of serving targeted adverts and yet when this is served up to us by companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, initially we kick and scream about it and the proposals are retracted, yet a few months (or at most a couple of years) later they reappear, vaguely re-branded as something that is for our benefit and within a short time the very monitoring we have rallied and protested against is there, buried in the sites we utilise daily and masked as being for our benefit.
There is another point I wish to discuss here in that when the great firewall of China and the sister firewall of Australia were first brought to public attention there was a massive show of disgust at their implementation and yet the UK is in the process of implementing their own disguised as “Parental controls” and suddenly it has become acceptable. We are blindly marching ourselves into allowing our online movements to be tracked by the Government.
What concerns me more about the so called parental controls is not the fact that they are there, but the fact data about our personal browsing habits are being recorded and monitored. We are forced to opt in to being able to access certain sites by opting out of wishing to be restricted.
Now I am not overly concerned by having to opt in to services but I resent wholly and in part having to opt out. It drives me mad when I have to opt out of being force fed by friends gaming habits on Facebook, why should I be forced to opt out of parental controls?
The real concern here though is should the data being collected on us fall into the wrong hands, suddenly countless numbers of innocent people may be branded in a light they do not deserve and once we go down that road there is no turning back.
It seems to be that we are morally outraged by almost everything but the moment someone cries “Won’t someone please think of the children”, we automatically drop our moral backbone and rally round in protection.
The article provided on Guardian tech clearly demonstrates this by presenting the technology as being aimed at the protection of children. Perhaps the UK Government is on to something here. By presenting dystopia as being for the protection of our children we will blindly march into it, accepting even the most extreme proposals.
As we race headlong into tomorrows world, the article paints a very good picture of how, by needlessly heeding the desires of big corporations to sell us items that track and monitor our behaviours to the Governments imposing of the finest level of detail of monitoring on us, we are, in all probability marching blindfolded into the very dystopia Orwell envisioned and the one we are openly resistant too. The difference is that it is being disguised as being for the benefit and protection of those we love and care about and by branding it in that light we are obviously more accepting of it.