War on Privacy

Although the speaker in this video has a very annoying voice, it has an important message.

Technology is perhaps the most rapidly developing industry today, and with it comes an abundance of unexpected changes that add both excitement and risk to people’s lives. Recently, some very controversial technologies have been put into place, ones that many popular sci-fi and dystopian novelists would find absolutely chilling.

Google, for instance, could be argued to be the most powerful web presence. The company has power over more than a hundred other web applications, technologies, and web sites such as Android, YouTube, Picasa, and Blogger. Because of its astronomical development and its ability to seep into many facets of the internet, many people have become concerned with internet privacy, especially with the introduction of it’s new social network, Google+.

Social networks are currently one of the most powerful resources for advertisers, especially since most people in America have one. Facebook, one of the most popular social networking sites, operates on a system called an Open Graph, which collects information such as “likes” of each user and his/her demographics. The system can even pick out keywords in status updates and use them to tailor ads to fit a user’s wants and needs. This is a huge advantage for advertisers and can even aid consumers. But how far is too far? Many people say sites like Google have crossed the line.

The many faces of Google work together; for example, if you are logged in to your Gmail account and then make a Google search in a new tab, the company can link your email address to every search you make, as well as the location from which the searches are made. Accounts such as YouTube, Blogger, and Picasa are most generally linked to the users Gmail account if they use that account to sign up. The new Google+, like Facebook, stores user information in addition to all of the 0ther Google fronts to use at its disposal. Basically, whether you know it or not, the internet has compiled a profile on each and every one of us.

But that’s only the beginning.

One of the biggest threats to internet users today is the collection of their biometric data. That’s right, Facebook doesn’t just have pictures of you, it knows what you look like. Facebook frequently makes changes to their site, but only the changes that most directly affect user experience are brought to a users attention. Other changes regarding privacy or account matters are generally up to the individual to be aware of. One of these recent changes is a feature called “Tag Suggestions,” where Facebook stores your facial comparison data and recognizes you in photos, making it possible to add tags for friends and family instantly. This feature is automatically activated and is in use unless a user manually disables it in his/her privacy settings.

The same technology is being applied outside of the internet, such as on “smart” billboards in metropolitan areas. These signs can detect the age, sex, and attention spans of passersby. A smartphone app has now been developed to interpret the best party locations according to number of people and male to female ratio for participating businesses. Even interactive surveillance equipment has been put into place in certain parts of the UK and Europe (security cameras that tell you what to do).

As exciting and useful as these kind of technologies may be, we must also be wary of their progress and power. Countless examples, such as the film Minority Report, caution us against technology becoming an electronic “Big Brother.” But in reality, whether we want it to or not, it’s happening.

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