Friday, January 28, 2011

Do You Ever Get The Feeling Like Somebody Is Watching You?

Do you think that R&B singers, Rockwell, Michael and Jermaine Jackson could have predicted that Geico commercials and today's surveillance age would make their song, "Somebody's Watching Me" such a popular ditty well after it's release in 1984?

If you went to the airport, bank, or a store today, you probably expected to be watched and maybe even tracked, while on premises.

But those are the old school ways of being watched.  Now, the smartphone in your pocket could watch you or your laptop webcam can watch you.

Having an emotional reaction?  There's a wristband monitor for that.

Have a lot of old photos that you need to categorize?  Google and Picassa offer a helpful feature, photo tagging, where they auto suggest who your friends might be and potential names of people in photos based on previously tagged photos.  Helpful?  Yes, and a little spooky too.

At the Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft and Intel showed attendees an in-store digital billboard that memorizes faces.  The memorization helps track products you like.  That is quite a step up from my grocery store loyalty program.

What happens when technology advances fuse the photos your friends tagged you in, with the grocery store digital billboard, and other information?

All of this data collection can be helpful and put to very good use.  Monitors can alert law enforcement of a potential bad guy's whereabouts.  Monitors could help avert a major health issue for example.

However, there are concerns about privacy:
1.  Who is allowed to collect data via sensors?
2.  Should they have permission first or do they need to disclose that sensors are in use?
3.  Are they allowed to bundle that with other information to create individual profiles?
4.  If you are tagged in a photo by a friend, who else can use that tag?  Is that available for searching by anyone that takes a photo of you and wants to profile and track you?
5.  Employers use Facebook and other online searches now to look up candidates - this will transform information available about you

"Hello, Big Brother: Digital sensors are watching us", USA Today, January 27, 2011.

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