The future is coming ready-or-not

Mobile phone tracking

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Want to check your partners movements, or make sure employees are sick and not taking a break at the beach? Mobile phone tracking allows you to watch a phone globally without the owner knowing! The Guardian reported a while back one journalists sneaky girlfriend stalking experiment. I forgot to publish this when it came up, but it's still an interesting story.

Her apathetic reaction to being monitored mirrors that of most people I've spoken to about privacy, the impact of technology and their impact on society. Most people have a general expectation of privacy and don't realise that in a ubiquitously networked and sensored world we leave a constant trail of bread crumbs.

Information is power so it's natural that governments and institutions want more information so they can analyse it for their benefit. The question is what level of monitoring and data collection we're willing to accept. It's a complex question and my fear is that society won't become aware of the issue until long after the decisions governing this area have been taken. There often very little media interest, though The Independent newspaper has recently been drawing more attention to the issues.

It's quite easy to get over-focused on the drawbacks but many of these technologies will be beneficial – making the decisions that much harder. What could be more useful that knowing that your friend Bob is at your favourite bar and that he knows the barmaid you like.

Location awareness using systems like dodgeball is just a small part of what will be possible. The online world where more information is recorded and interlinking is easier will probably see the results ahead of the offline world. If Generation C really exists then the interplay between content creation, mash-ups (aka web services), findability and human nature is going to be very interesting. Just imagine the impact on job hunting or dating if you can deep dive someone's personal history; at least you could get straight to the point! For a minor window on the possible, try seeing what the Internet knows about you on the Egosurf site.

Before you start pulling the battery and keeping your mobile in Walkers crisps bag The Register reports that the system does notify you when being monitored: well if it's by a member of the public anyway!

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Written by Steve George

May 10, 2006 at 22:28

Posted in Internet, Privacy

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