I asked the question, “Is this where we want to go?” in a previous post regarding interaction with data and having it available to us all the time. In the talk I heard today, given by Tim O’Reilly at the Web 2.0 Expo in NYC, Mr. O’Reilly talked about how cell phones are a sensor package that goes with you. Soon, all of the developed world will have sensors on virtually every person. With the advent of machine-to-machine (M2M) devices, this proliferation will become more ubiquitous. Without really thinking the entire thing scenario through, I unwittingly hit on this with my post on the AR.Drone.
Now, more than before, I can’t help but wonder, is this where we want to go? Do we, as a global society, really want to have this much information being gathered? What is the impact of collecting all this data?
I believe there are two major classes of data within the questions regarding collection of data: Personal Data and Environmental Data. Personal Data, obviously, deals with data regarding the individual to whom a sensor package is bound, i.e. position, time, acceleration. And Environmental Data concerns, again obviously, data related to one’s environment, i.e. position, time, acceleration, temperature, ambient volume, barometric pressure, etc. Yes, there is a deliberate overlap in types of data collected for said classes of data. The reason for pointing out the overlap is simply because it must be dealt with from a security standpoint.
You might be thinking, “What do I have to worry about if I’m not doing anything wrong?” This question can launch into volumes of philosophical debates, but as an example of a simple retort think of being called by a telemarketer. How obnoxious and intrusive this simple event can be. And, this event only occurs due to the availability of a phone number in some database.
Am I being paranoid or overly cautious? Perhaps, but I really don’t think so. I support my assertion with the existence of the no-call lists. People would not demand governmental protection if they did not feel the issue was a small one.
Some proponents of exposing the raw data regardless of the consequences may align themselves with a sort of ageism philosophy. That is, the older generations are those who called for having no-call lists and the younger generations are used to simply not answering the phone when they don’t recognize the calling number. While that may be of some validity, the mechanism that are currently in place, and that are taken for granted, that prevent many telemarketers from calling your cell phone are there because of the previous generations.
So where does this leave us?
I observe that with every advance in technology there is a rapid, and almost blind, leap toward the new and unknown. While I support the process of discovery in principle, I regard it with caution. We are on the cusp of monumental changes in the way we view the entire world around us. Never before has so much information been available to us at once. We must acknowledge that we are running toward a precipice. What may come into view once we get to the edge is unknown, but we do know as innovators that we are at the front of the pack. We are leading the rest of the community to an edge where there is no visibility beyond but that which we can imagine.
How will you guide your followers?