The amount of personal information being gathered by commercial interests should begin to worry folks, no matter how convenient it may be when Macy’s remembers your shoe size. Unfortunately, new innovations are underway which will expose an individual’s personal information beyond what a reasonable mind might expect. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and a few small companies are now “face printing.” Images posted on social media, on videofeeds, at border crossings, airports and stores are being collected with the goal that your features will replace the need for passwords.
What sounds like a great innovation will also track your movements, making it easier for marketers to know where you are and what you’re doing. Walk by a Mall Kiosk and an add will flash informing you that your favorite brand of sneakers are in stock, or there’s a “buy one get one free sale” going on at the Gap. Even manikins will have digital eyes to record your shopping habits and target you for future store promotions. Cameras in the street will alert nearby shops of your presence, as well. Of course, if retailers know where you are, so will law enforcement agents like the FBI, the IRS and the CIA.
Be aware that these surveillance methods will do more than reveal where you are at any given moment. New software will also assess your mental state. A program called Affectiva “builds models that take into account everything from eye creases to lip quivers. With 11 billion data points from nearly 3 million faces, the company says it has translated emotions into information.” (“Business Ideas,” Wired, Sept. 2015, pg. 96-97)
If senility ever overtakes me, it’s comforting to know that after Nike sells me 3 dozen pairs of running shoes, they’ll know the address to give to the cabbie when they send me home with my packages. Other than that, I can see no real benefit to allowing companies to monetize my information. Worse, once a record is kept, government peeping toms won’t be far behind, insisting they need the information to save me from terrorists.
Maybe it’s time to ask who these terrorists are? Where do they lurk? The trail, I fear, might lead us to the center of Silicon Valley.