Our digital age has given way to many conveniences in our lives, but these come at a price. As if the book ‘1984’ was prophecy, we’re now tracked 24/7 by our apps, everything we do on our phones is recorded, and it seems as if nearly every modern appliance has the built-in capability to spy on us as well.
There are a mind-boggling number of examples to give, but for this blog we’ll focus on 3 relevant and troubling ones:
The private “taxi service” known as Uber now tracks customers through its app from the moment they request a ride until 5 minutes after the ride is done and you leave the car. It’s spelled out clearly in their Terms of Service.
This will happen if the app is open or simply running in the background. When you open the app for the first time since the update, you’ll receive a pop-up box asking you to opt-in. If you do not allow the app to track you, you’ll have to enter your exact location each time when scheduling a pick-up.
This inconvenience will undoubtedly prompt many users to opt-in and voluntarily give up data about themselves.
According to Statista, there were 125 CCTV cameras per 1000 people in the US in 2014. This means that there were an estimated 43,750,000 CCTVs in use 2 years ago, shooting over 4 billion hours of footage *per week*.
While this staggering number of cameras watching us has been implemented for our security, these cameras do little in the way of preventing crimes as many studies have found.
The NSA has built a newish multi-billion dollar data center, and it makes one wonder just how much of this footage is being permanently stored. A part of me doesn’t want to make the correlation, but it seems like the sort of thing East Germany would have implemented if they had the technology back then.
Big Brother is definitely watching us, and he’s a stalker with eyes everywhere!
A recent story from The Verge wrestles with the Wynn Hotel Las Vegas installing 4748 Amazon Echoes in each of their rooms for guest convenience.
CEO Steve Wynn told them, “She becomes our butler, at the service of our guests. I have never, ever seen anything that was more intuitively dead on to making a guest experience seamlessly delicious, effortlessly convenient than the ability to talk to your room.”
Yes, what Mr. Wynn says is true. It would help if you could ask Alexa to turn off the lights or heat up the room, but does this bit of convenience justify having the conversations of every single hotel guest monitored and recorded while in their room?
I can envision high level executives’ business being recorded, used against them, and/or sold to a competitor. Imagine a World Series of Poker event held at the Wynn. How much would players pay to hear other players’ strategy in their own words? How much could you blackmail certain guests for their indiscretions?
This is the type of invasive surveillance that J. Edgar Hoover used to dream about while compiling dirt on everyone in DC in order to bend them to his will.
It's great to have Alexa make a phone call for you, it's nice to have your refrigerator tell you when you're out of milk, it's nice to have a vast array of maps in your phone, and all of these make our daily reality a unique experience that our forefathers may have never dreamed about.
And at the same time, we're experiencing an alarming loss of privacy and security in the name of convenience.
It doesn't take a historian to see the eerie similarities between ours and some of the former societies that have been closed down, with citizens subjected to being controlled through fear and surveillance.
We all need to mind the grid.
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