I bought a new smartphone the other day, replacing my ancient Nokia.
Cool tech, apart from the funny teal colour distortion on the camera (check out the previous post on Katherine Mansfield). But hey… Brings me into the second decade of the twenty-first century, at last.
And it also means Google knows exactly where I am at all times. Well, it knows where the phone is, but that usually amounts to the same thing. After a while, they’ll have a database built up of my movements.
What will they learn?
Well, they’ll learn that I spend about 98% of my time in front of a computer monitor.
They’ll learn that I don’t go shopping, much.
And they’ll learn that, from their perspective, my life is pretty boring
What piques me is the irony. Back in 1947, George Orwell envisioned a “future” (1948, wisely reversed by his publishers to 1984) in which every move by every citizen was watched.
The purpose, in his satirical tale, was social control – and it was framed by contemporary trends. His future Britain was very much a representation of the contemporary Soviet Union, which under Stalin was a totalitarian dictatorship.
The data gathering today is very different, for very different purpose – in very different context. But it is, nonetheless, direct monitoring of what we are doing, every minute of the day.
Does it bother me? The purpose is stated, it’s genuinely intended, and I don’t think it’s inimical. Google already read my emails. Yeah, it’s an intrusion into what we traditionally think of as privacy. But I’m not too worried. If they think anything they collect about me is useful – well, good luck to them.
My only problem is that, historically, it’s not the people who collect the data who end up misusing it.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013