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Joining forces with spies

7 Ocak 2013 , Pazartesi 09:15
Joining forces with spies
melis.sunay@halklailiskiler.com

 

Not so very long ago, the idea that organizations, corporations or even individuals could obtain information, buy and sell goods, make financial transactions and even monitor the movements of private citizens with a mere computer keystroke, was something left to the imagination of science fiction writers and film makers.  Although, tracking individual citizens is nothing new, advances in today’s technology have taken tracking to a much greater…and far less secure level.

While the average person would certainly be wary about giving personal information such as banking data, salary and earnings, medical histories, or account identification numbers to a perfect stranger, it seems most have no problem providing this same confidential information to any number of faceless companies who conduct business on the world wide web. 

Social networking sites such as Facebook, have become great information tracking sources for businesses looking to market to consumers who might show interest in their product. Members of these sites willingly place an enormous amount of personal information on these social networking sites in the belief that it is only being seen by friends and family.  What most don’t realize is that embedded within these sites are “phishing” programs that extract key words and information tidbits, which can be used to directly market a product. For example, someone wishing to purchase an automobile such as Volkswagen, might navigate to several Volkswagen websites in search of information on the vehicle. Later, upon returning to their social site, they might notice several advertisements for Volkswagen have suddenly appeared on their page.

These social networking sites also have the ability to gather information through recognition software called ‘photo tagging’, a sort of facial fingerprinting, which can index facial features for identification. Once an individual is tagged in a photo, this software is programmed to look for similar facial characteristics in other photos on the site. At a recent International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Intel and Microsoft introduced a prototype of an in-store, digital billboard that can memorize our faces. This technology can soon be used in billboards capable of keeping track of products, which interest us.

In addition, photographs can contain embedded code, which allows others to identify the location at which the photo was taken.  This conceivably enables anyone with the know-how to track and even find the personal residence of perfect strangers.

In fact, Google, my favorite site for quick answers, has announced that it will keep track of users’ cell phones and computers to gather information for advertising purposes. Google has been working on the set up of a global data amassing system and database where information is collected in order to create a profile of the habits and interests of it’s users. Sponsored advertising will appear on the Google pages in an effort to capture the user’s attention and, once you click the advertisement…you guessed it…you’ve provided them with even more information to use in the future.

Even the mobile phone is not safe from information theft.  The latest technology allows companies to look into who we call, when we call, how often we call…and what we say when we text.  The mobile phone, especially the new ‘smart phones’, are much like mini-computers and when used as a computer, service providers can monitor everything from web browsing to wireless e-commerce transactions. Advances in GPS (Global Positioning System), allow our every move to be tracked using maps and satellite triangulations, not only by mobile phone but also when driving.  There are computer programs in automobiles, which have the capability to notify the driver that they are low on petrol and that they could use a little air in the right rear tire.

Larger retail chains and supermarkets have been tracking shoppers for years, keeping a record of consumer dietary habits through purchases. These records are used to notify shoppers of the latest discounts on their favorite foods, but to further provide assistance to Insurance companies – who use this information to grant or deny insurance policies based on consumption habits.

As a student, I read a well-known novel titled “1984”, by George Orwell, in which the state instigated electronic surveillance of every citizen and actions were monitored by “Big Brother.” At the time, the idea of people being watched by a high-tech system seemed just a figment of a writer’s imagination. However, now…the world has begun to take on eerie similarities to the story. Hopefully, our future will not have the same ending as the book.

Do we sacrifice our privacy for convenience? Do we continue to remain unaware of the intrusion into our lives by corporations who use our information to amass fortunes? Or do we take a stand and educate ourselves on ways to protect our identities, our privacy…and our future from the new “Big Brother?”

 

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