You will be watched while you read this
Rounding a bend in the road around a local airport the other day, I glanced to the left and saw a cop sitting in the grass off the pavement. The white SUV was easy to see. The guy wasn’t trying to hide, but he didn’t need to because people love to come whipping around this particular stretch of road — it lends itself to speeding — and probably a few of them can’t slow down soon enough and shoot past the cop’s position.
As I passed him, however, I was struck by a very depressing thought: The day is coming when your car — your very own, much loved member-of-your-family automobile — is going to fink on you, rat you out, and otherwise get you in trouble.
Oh, yeah. Because eventually cars will have a communication system that by law will have to be able to communicate with the police. This will be factory-installed in the name of safety. It will amount to this: You’ll pass by a cop’s location, and your car will tell the laptop in his car how fast you’re going.
Don’t think so? Live long enough, you’ll get to enjoy this and much more. Rental car companies are already letting subcontractors spy on you and fine you. Retailers are tagging their crappy clothes so that they can track your movements and spending habits. A respected American aircraft manufacturer, maker of one of the aeronautic icons of WWII, is proud to offer a high-altitude, long-flying spy drone that will undoubtedly spy on Americans. I’ve already written a post about the day when the Earthly landscape itself spies on you using “smart dust.”
I hate all this because I’m getting intensely beleaguered of being observed, tracked, and otherwise spied upon in “the Land of the Free.” I must point out, however, that at times I submit voluntarily to observation either because I simply can’t get around it, or a desired activity results in observation.
This blog and also my Facebook profile are examples of that voluntary action. Search engines survey the words I use in blog posts, and advertising related to the concepts of those words pops up on Beaufinn now and then. Some months ago when I wrote about wild boars in Germany, an ad for boar hunting in America appeared on my site.
As for Facebook, we all fell for it, really, including me. We unnecessarily gave away a ton of personal information, and that site is now obviously all about watching and monitoring people and their activity, and trying to sell stuff to them. I no longer post photos to my Facebook profile, and comment minimally on my own activities, because I find it akin to reporting on myself to both the world and also to a hidden authority about which I get to know nothing.
Privacy has become a commodity, and I’m starting to invest more and more, or at least try.
As for that idea about your car ratting you out to the cops, that’s not entirely about privacy, because if you’re just +2 mph over the limit, you’re doing that in public. What’s wrong with that is the passivity of it — that my machine, not I, files a report that I wouldn’t deign to file. The person is in charge of the machine, or should be. My car shouldn’t be making phone calls that I didn’t dial or wouldn’t dial.
Is it all about safety and peace of mind? Will we feel wonderfully secure in a world where our cars are talking to the other cars and regulating their speed together while we, in our GPS-tracked, holographic clothes, can spend the drive to work already doing work using our cranially implanted PDAs? While overhead, the drones know exactly who’s where, what they had for breakfast, how much they weigh, their blood sugar and heart-rate, and if they’re pregnant or not?
At lunch, you take a walk, and the genetically modified trees can detect the skin cells you shed. They record your presence in an embedded chip.
Oh, yes — trees will be computerized in the future.
I just wonder: How soon?