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Advancements in Technology Can Lead to Privacy Issues

Updated on September 27, 2012
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Where’s My Jetpack?

If you grew up reading comic books or watching early science fiction films, you are probably wondering where the future that was promised to us is. You may be asking yourself: Where are the flying cars, ray guns and manned missions to other planets? And, what about those jetpacks?

Dr. James Kakalios provides answers to these questions and more in his book, titled “The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics: A Math-Free Exploration of the Science That Made Our World.”

In the book, Kakalios explains that the reason that we don’t have all the cool things that were promised to us is because the authors of those comic books and early science fiction films predicted a revolution in energy, and instead we got a revolution in information.

The revolution in information brought us ways to communicate with people around the globe instantly, laptop computers with computing power that continues to grow at an alarming rate, smartphones and a number of other automated devices that weren’t even imagined years ago. (You might want to give his book a read. Although it doesn’t cover the issues that I’m writing about for the rest of this post, it does provide some interesting insights into the science that goes into a lot of the devices that we rely on each and every day.)

Do We Need to Give Up Our Privacy?

In the future, more technologies are going to be introduced that will push the envelope and challenge both our imagination and how we define our expectations of privacy.

This is something that I have been thinking a lot about lately, as there have been recent advancements in technology that make me believe that the future that was predicted in movies like “Minority Report” might be here sooner than we thought.

In fact, if futurists like Raymond Kurzweil are correct, we are in for one amazing journey in the next four decades.

However, while scientists keep pushing forward to develop new technologies, business leaders, politicians, ethicists and spiritual leaders are going to have to determine whether or not such technologies should be made available to the general public.

Examples of Current Technologies That Concern Some Privacy Advocates

While we might not even be able to imagine the next cool thing that the scientists will develop, there are technologies that are being used already that have privacy experts crying foul.

For example, in my post about search engine optimization (SEO) I mentioned a study that found that 73% of search engine users say that it’s not okay for a search engine to track their searches and then use it to personalize their search results because it’s an invasion of privacy. Yet, Google is already doing this.

And, every once in a while you also hear a person express concerns about personalized retargeting.

There’s also the personal favorite of mine: facial recognition technology.

Facial recognition technology is being used by Facebook, Google and even mobile apps to enhance the user’s experience.

However, our friends over in Europe have expressed concerns about this technology. If fact, according to a post on Businessweek.com, the EU has forced Facebook to temporarily stop using its facial recognition functionality for users in the European Union.

Back in the United States, Minnesota Senator Al Franken has also questioned Facebook’s use of facial recognition technology. As mentioned in a post on CNET.com, Franken has suggested that Facebook’s facial recognition technology feature should be opt-in rather than automatic.

Franken has also raised concerns about the government’s use of facial recognition technology.

Conclusion

In future posts I will plan to talk about these and other technologies in more detail. However, in this post, I just wanted to give some examples of the technologies that are currently being used by the government and the private sector that have privacy advocates concerned.

I am personally excited to see many of these new technologies incorporated into our everyday lives, as I think that they will make our lives easier and hopefully more enjoyable.

On the other hand, I do have some concerns that the government or other organizations might take it too far and use these new technologies to try to control our every move.

As I mentioned before, it is going to be up to the business leaders, politicians, ethicists and spiritual leaders to determine whether or not such technologies should be made available to the general public.

From a business standpoint, the general public will also have a say. That is, if a business uses a controversial technology such as facial recognition technology to help advertise its products or services, consumers can choose to let the business know how they feel about the use of the particular technology by not only voicing their opinions online, but also at the cash register.

In the end, nothing is going to stop scientists from doing what they do best. (Even laws in one country can't be enforced in other countries.)

Therefore, there is no doubt that we will be able to incorporate many new advancements in technology into our everyday lives in the very near future—but the real question is should we?

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    • Chad Thiele profile image
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      Chad Thiele 5 years ago from Hudson, Wisconsin

      Emily,

      Again, I agree with you. I have no problem with Google tracking where I search. In fact, I also have no problem with Facebook tracking me.

      The issue really arises in how the data is used. If it is used to make my world easier, as you point out, then that is awesome.

      However, if that information gets sold to third parties that could use the data for the wrong reasons, that is when I get concerned.

      As you say, "track away." However, it is good that they offer the option to opt-out. Furthermore, I'm glad that there are people who are trying to make sure that this activity is regulated.

      Thank you again for the comment.

      Chad

    • emily-binder profile image

      Emily Binder 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I guess I can wait four decades for the futuristic world I crave. I find it so incongruous that people are willing to give tons of personal information, preferences, and data to Facebook and Foursquare and Instagram etc. but when the question of being tracked by a search engine arises, they get squeamish. I'd rather be tracked by Google than any of the aforementioned networks. I use Google more. I'll get more relevant results, content, ads, and social search results by letting my browser or Google track me when logged in. The tracking Facebook does just seems more sinister. 1) It's always enshrouded, confusing, and updates/policy changes are very quietly administered. 2) Facebook knowing about me doesn't benefit my Facebook social experience, it just makes FB ads more relevant to me. However, because I use Google for more than a social experience (I use it for SEARCH, apps, and more), it's more beneficial for Google to know me better.

      Maybe I'm being blind by my affinity for one company over the other (as I have been guilty of doing with Apple vs. the rest of the world) but just look at track records. Google isn't perfect but Facebook is just specious. Now, I am speaking to that 73% of people from the SEO stat you mentioned. I know you get this.

      So, would you turn on "do not track"? I say track away - it means I will eventually see fewer bankruptcy and weight loss ads.

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