Sunday, September 15, 2013

If technology is the tool, why am I the one getting used?


Technology's great isn't it. 

"There's an app for that" and increasingly there's hardware for it. too.  The next decade promises an explosion of technical doodads that will be able to do anything from having your favorite latte' ready when you wake to alerting you to failing health.

Ain't it grand.  Our entire lives, every need, every whim, every action collected, recorded, monitored and stored.  Today, a newborn baby can expect a record of everything they've ever done from cradle to grave.

How convenient, how secure, how exciting this gilded cage we're making for ourselves.  Until we found out about the antics of the NSA recently, the concept could be brushed off as the ramblings of a crank.  Regardless of the level of technical expertise governments may or may not have, the event shocked a technology addicted populace even if only for a moment.

For the next few months at least, anyone selling anything with the word "privacy" is sure to do well until the next shiny bauble comes along.

Short of an EMP pulse from space knocking us back to the 19th century, change never happens overnight.  It's gradual no matter how exponential Moore's law becomes.  Today it's a fingerprint reader on an Iphone or the convenience of storing your private data in the cloud.  Most people wouldn't give a second thought to what it really means to swap out an Android phone and find all their personal data and settings automatically downloaded to its replacement. 

It's just  cool because it's so convenient.  Never mind someone else has control of your stuff...

All you have to do is stress the utility of that new toy and privacy goes out the window.  That anyone who uses a  Smartphone expects the data on it to be private in the first place is laughable but they do. 

 You can choose not to participate but soon find yourself ostracized.  Socialization, personal economy and even careers increasingly demand you jump on the bandwagon.

Technology isn't a bad thing so long as it remains a tool but it seems we're moving toward an age where the tool is used against us.

Consider a world where your smartphone snitches to your health insurance company via its NFC payment capability while your car verifies your location via GPS.  There's no denying it, you got the supersized fries and your health premium is going up because of it.

Consider your car insurance company monitoring every mile and basing your premium on what they find out.  It's already happening with at least one major insurance carrier.

Maybe you get a discount for driving 5 miles under the speed limit and ordering the salad instead of the burger.  That makes it all ok, right?

It's the small changes in what is considered acceptable that gradually erode personal freedoms and liberties.  Consider that for your discounted premiums you've essentially subjected yourself to a set of values you may not share.  As it becomes a more accepted practice you become more powerless.

Companies are essentially demanding compliance from their customers.  What happened here?  Since when does a customer have to justify themselves to  the cashier?

It's simple really. 

You're a prisoner, worse, you pay dearly for the privilege while the whole time doggedly defending your right to treated as such.

Technology is seductive, slowly evolving our dependency to the point where it's inconceivable for most to live without it.  We're convinced we need it even if we don't.  We must be continually connected and have instant access to everything.

We even create workflows of nonsense just to justify having it.  Is it really that important to be able to talk to Google?  What if all your queries were recorded, compiled and used to create a profile about you that you knew nothing about?

The sad fact is that the services we rely on often don't have our best interests at heart.  Profit and  Philanthropy make poor bedfellows.  So does power.

Once governments discover this voluntary abdication of civil liberties it's nothing for them to exercise control over our cherished providers of our technological fix.

And it is a fix.  If you can't imagine a day without your smartphone you're just as addicted as anyone on crack cocaine.  You think you need it but in reality you don't.

Technology is a tool but there's no reason you should allow yourself to be used by it.  Get your context straight and you won't have to worry about privacy or security.