Sunday, September 20, 2015

Our Brave New World is Here and We're Wearing It

Your personal privacy may be heading the way of the Dodo bird.

Privacy may be the least appreciated human right we possess given how readily we shed it these days through social media. This election itself has been an eye-opener into how many candidates have been caught up in their own imprudent, misogynistic or racist comments on Facebook and such.

Well, prepare for your privacy to take another body blow, this time from wearable devices, things like FitBit activity monitors.

I got one of these devices recently, a Jawbone Up3 monitor. It tracks things like sleep patterns as well as resting and waking heart rates.  As new apps are written it will track other things. This small bracelet embodies both GPS and Bluetooth. It transmits data by Wi-Fi to the cloud and interacts with an app on your smart phone. The data that it gathers are digested into weekly and monthly email reports. They're available online for a span of up to five years. Five years of your sleep, respiratory and cardiological data floating about on the cloud, the internet, and thankfully that's so secure.

My cardiologist is a real techie. He looked into this Up3 technology and sees great promise in it. He thinks the embedded biometric sensors should be able to detect a medical emergency that could auto-dial a smart phone to place a 911 call transmitting your location (GPS) and pre-entered data about how best to access your home and such. The device could pass along the apparent nature of your medical emergency and monitor things such as heart rate in real time as paramedics travel to you.

There's now even a smartphone case for i-Phones and some Samsung Galaxy models.  It looks like any generic phone case except for two metal squares on the back. If the user senses a heart problem it's a matter of opening an app, placing the index and middle finger tip of each hand on the squares on the back and - voila - instant electrocardiogram. I'm told if the system detects a heart failure event it can autodial a call that will pop up on the doctor's desktop monitor with all the data. At least I think that's how it works.

The promise of these devices is still not proven but we also don't have a measure of the dark side of these technologies. What if your life insurer demands that you wear one of these things and allow the company to access to your data? What if they cajole you into it by announcing premiums won't increase for those who comply but will jump should you refuse? Employers are also becoming conscious of employee health and the impact on sick days and long-term disability claims. What if a condition of employment is that you wear one of these things, on and off the job? Do you want your boss to get a digest of where you're spending your time off the clock, when you get to sleep and when you wake, your heart rate and all the personal information that can convey? My but aren't you a frisky one at 11 o'clock.

And if this information is valuable to your employer who is to say what another company might seek to glean about key personnel at its competitor? Let the hackfest begin.

The thing is that these developments are in the works and they may be coming to your desk soon.  Check out this article from The Guardian last month.  Brave New World indeed.


ThinkingManNeil said...

This shit can be dealt with. If a company demands you wear something to track your trips to the bathroom or how often you lean back from your work then I say the employees simply pull a work stoppage - no union required - until the company backs down. We're so often cowed into submission by corporatist demands; all they have to do is yank our chains and we say "Yes, no sir, three bags full, sir" Workers do have power, too; all they have to do is recognize and claim it.

Meanwhile in Sweden, a more progressive atmosphere is experimenting with a six hour work day and is getting good results for both workers and employers


Toby said...

As one who does not have a cellphone and does not post to social media and uses an alias on forums such as this I can attest that it's possible to avoid most of the spying. Of course, CSIS probably has me on a short list of those who don't have cellphones, don't post to social media and uses an alias on forums.

ThinkingManNeil said...

Funny and very apt (or is that app?), Toby...


Anonymous said...

Buy and use a VPN.

Lulymay said...

I was just thinking "ThinkingManNeil" that Harper has beat Sweden to the draw. He has already decreed that 30 hours a week is full time work. It's just that you only get PAID for 30 hours, not the 40 that most folks associate with "full time work".

Cheers to all those who think ABC is the best we can hope for in this upcoming election. After all, those god-fearing folk that think Harpo walks on water don't care a hoot, as long as he trots out his bible once in a while.

Anonymous said...

Not all VPN providers are the same. Beware.