Thursday, January 16, 2014

Living Digitally

Even the Jetsons never envisioned:

Here are some things location trackers know about you from your phone:
- People whose cellphones move at a certain clip across city parks between 5:30 and 8:30 every morning are flagged by Viasense’s algorithm as “early morning joggers.”
- A person whose phone visits the golf course once a month is designated a casual golfer. Three times a month is classified as an intermediate golfer.
When your phone is turned on at night, companies can look at the signal and deduce that the location is your home. If the phone beams from a school, Viasense infers that the phone’s owner is a student.
- Turnstyle has placed sensors in yoga studios, a hotel, a theater, a large sports arena, coffee shops, and boutiques in downtown Toronto. The network of Wi-Fi-reading sensors enable the company to share with retailers and restaurants aggregated reports about their customers’ travels, such as the number who went to yoga last month or those who ate at a vegetarian restaurant.
- If a bulk of customers travel from a certain neighborhood, a business could target more of its advertising to this area.
Sure, some people will look at this situation and want their privacy back. But look at the opportunities  that come with having your life displayed for advertisers, bureaucrats, and government officials 24/7.  For one thing, jogging no longer requires sweat and sore knees. All you need is a friend willing to carry your phone on his/her morning run. Heck, you might even be able to get credit for a Boston marathon, or two.

Course, I say this like it would be a lark, but maybe it will become a necessity. Who thinks the government will be able to resist incorporating our descriptive metadata into its medical database? What are the chances that someday someone will be turned down for a heart transplant because he made too many trips to McDonald's over the years?

Best not chance it. Best to pay a jogger to take your phone out. Buy a vegetable juicer and make sure Amazon spells your name right. Buy your red meat with cash, and get your cigarettes from overseas.

No one ever said utopia would be easy.

Want to opt out of location tracking? Here are five things to check on your phone.