Cameras And Data

Technology is about to make a "hook-up" that will forever change the way we live our lives. Cameras are everywhere -- in stores, on the street, in the home and eventually almost everywhere we go. And it has become possible to begin to recognize individual faces, and more importantly, attach meaning to what we do, without any human interaction. Take a look at "video content analysis" in Wikipedia or one of a thousand other sources. Emerging technology will allow computers to identify who we are, actions that indicate what we are thinking and our emotional state.

So what happens when the camera data hooks-up with our online profile? Suddenly we have a whole profusion of "connect-the-dots" things possible.

It will be possible to know who you are wherever you go. The data from Google searches melds with the data of wherever you go, creating a profile of your interests, your habits, where you have been, who you have talked to (in person as well as on the phone) and crimes you may be committing. The last is why the government agencies are going to help fund this research.

But even if you are not a criminal, things get creepy. Stop in a shop to peruse an item and marketers are going to inundate you with ads online, spam (remember they have linked your online data with your physical data), phone marketing, texts and other crap. Marketers will know what you order in restaurants, buy in stores (including prescription drugs) -- in short anything we do physically. You can't cheat on your spouse, leave your home unattended, attend a political rally or any of a thousand of other legal (though maybe morally questionable) actions without someone who wants to know finding out. What they do with your data is up to them, not you.

And once the industry grows, it's too late to stop. The gate-keepers will have billions in reoccurring revenue to convince regulators that they won't misuse the data even though recent experience has demonstrated that hackers and insiders will eventually expose the data. The data will be just too valuable to be ignored. "Secure data" is an empty promise made by marketeers, not technologists.

The time to control the use of data is now, before an industry forms that will have a revenue stream to hire lobbyists to use to confuse regulators. Remember what happened with Facebook/Cambridge Analytica and is still ongoing with Google.

Even if the government is the only collector of this data (in the name of "national security") backdoors to the data will be too valuable to keep secret. Snowden, Wikileaks, NSA hacking tools, employee records -- the list of failed government promises to keep data secret are all too common. We need to stop anyone, including governments, from collecting this data in the first place.

August 27, 2019