Now that the iPhone 6 has made its debut and the buzz is all over the place, it’s really made me think about privacy. It’s not that Apple or iOS8 or the iPhone itself are dangerous…in fact Apple does a great deal to maintain its customers’ privacy by allowing password protected devices to encrypt most personal data, making it indecipherable without knowing the four-number password. Even Apple cannot bypass your passcode. I had first-hand experience with this over the summer when my six year-old son came running up to me and shared that he had found an iPhone in the park. I had no idea who the rightful owner was. All I knew was that her cellular provider was T-Mobile, so I called T-Mobile and asked if they could help and they said there was nothing they could do because of privacies. Fortunately, the owner called her phone, I answered, and she and the phone were reunited within a few minutes!
So, kudos to Apple and other manufacturers of these devices that make it hard for anyone, even law enforcement to “get in” to our phones. But what about EVERYTHING else? Ad tracking, location enabling, wearable devices. When does it become “too much?” When does this hyper-connectedness start to mirror scenes out of George Orwell’s infamous “1984” or Huxley’s “Brave New World”, where the quest for complete efficiency, control and ultimately, power, turns humans into robotic-like creatures?
As summer came to a close and suddenly I realized Christmas was all but 100 days away, I spent all of about 75 seconds on a Web site looking at a few inexpensive pool tables that I am considering buying as a present for my boys. Within a nanosecond, an ad for a pool table appeared in my next Google search. And now I see it. Almost. Every. Day. I realize this is not terribly unusual, but it’s really starting to creep me out. How about you?
I “checked in” recently to somewhere via Facebook and suddenly it tells me which one of my friends has also checked in there before. Facebook has also been telling me when one of my “friends” in nearby. Wow!! Now I know it can “turn off” these setting on my devices and accounts, and it’s my choice to leave them on or disable them, but I don’t think for a minute that the government and/or law enforcement couldn't find me within moments if they wanted to…despite my SmartPhone settings.
Our SmartPhones are truly becoming smarter and smarter. There are so many apps for so many things, and I know that the number of things that our phones can do is going to grow exponentially year over year. I mean, maybe we won’t even call them “phones” in the future, since making or taking a call on it will have become such a microcosm compared to the trillion other things we use the devices for! I envision that one day we will be able to start our cars, place restaurant orders from our tables, take our temperature, measure the air quality, measure our blood-alcohol levels and maybe even weigh ourselves on our “phones”!
We aren’t even far away from Brain-Computer interfaces…do you know what this is? It is a way for a computer to literally read our minds – to turn our thoughts, brain activity and impulses into actions. There are already apps out there that claim to be able to monitor your psychological health based on your social activity and browsing history. Whoa…
So getting back to privacy – all of this information – every step we take, every move we make (and yes, even every breath you take) – is stored somewhere. It’s all the fuss about “Big Data” we hear about. Where is it? Where is it going? Who gets it? What is it used for? I have a feeling this data bubble will eventually burst, and that privacy will be at the forefront of government and technology suppliers at the demand of consumers. Or at least I hope so.