01-Feb-2012   |     |   0

Is Big Brother Watching You, and Do You Mind?

What are people doing on the Internet, we must know!

Let’s talk about a few things that are going on in the news today. Now that the whole concern about the poorly written SOPA and PIPA bills has been postponed indefinitely by the United States Congress, it doesn’t mean governments and authorities aren’t still interested in what people do on the Internet. In an article posted on CNET, Hawaiian legislature is attempting to pass a bill that will allow the state to compile two years worth of resident’s internet browsing.

According to the article, the reasons behind the bill aren’t exactly clear, but it shares a very frightening similarity to the SOPA bill in that it’s wording is so broad and unspecific it could very easily lead to a huge privacy gap for residents. It doesn’t mention security protocols or what can and cannot be done with the data.

Tracking to improve services

Considerably (hopefully) more benign is a plan in place by Google to rewrite their privacy policy in order to combine your activity with other Google services. Google has been working hard over the years to customize the end-user experience based on their activity, and they are claiming that being able to merge your activity amongst multiple Google services like Gmail and Google Search, the service can further simplify and customize your experience.

For most users, it’s pretty likely they don’t catch on to the subtle customizations Google automatically makes, although after a while, search results can be honed in based on the user’s taste, which is all determined by tracking what results they click on while searching, amongst plenty of other metrics. Should users even feel at risk knowing Google is tracking them every time they search for ‘AREASERVED restaurants?’ Granted, Google is gradually learning a whole lot about each and every one of us, but how bad can that be? Even if Google were to rewrite their motto, ‘Do no evil,’ would we really be at risk if this information were to get out?

Sometimes we do it to ourselves

Of course, with mobile gadgets we’re connected much more often. Here’s a new footwear product by Aetrex that contains GPS tracking technology. Now the product is actually geared towards those afflicted with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia so that loved ones can keep track of them. If you have a loved one that suffers from Alzheimer’s, you likely understand that those that suffer from it can have the tendency to wander off and get lost. Obviously this is a great idea, but it is showing that GPS technology is becoming extremely common place. It’s used for good, but those who are much more concerned over their privacy don’t like the fact that they are being watched from the sky. Others can’t imagine going off the grid for more than a few hours.

The same applies for social networking services like FourSquare that let you check in whenever you visit a new public location, and shares it with other, or other social media apps that track your location as you post from your mobile device. We see the argument go both ways – some love broadcasting and promoting their location while others don’t want their friends to know what they are doing.

What’s your stance on privacy? Are you ready to embrace the all-seeing eye of big brother or do you want to keep yourself off the grid as much as possible? How much data collection is too much? Discuss this with us in the comments!

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