|Who's Watching Whom?|
My generation has probably witnessed more radical technological change than any other. We were born in the Golden Era of the Analog Age. We saw radio displaced by television in our homes. Vacuum tube electronics displaced by transistors. "In my day" even jet fighters were analog, operated by mechanical devices more akin to steam locomotives than to i-Pads. Newsrooms were equipped with manual typewriters and clattering teletype machines, both of them rendered useless without inked, cloth ribbons. The only intelligence in a car was the person with their hands on the wheel and foot on the gas pedal. It was rare indeed that anything got upgraded without the use of screwdrivers and hammers.
A couple of weeks ago my flat screen TV upgraded itself automatically online. My WiFi printer did the same thing when I plugged it in. Yesterday my smartphone and tablet auto-upgraded from Android Jelly Bean to Android Kit Kat, although they did ask my permission first. I still have no idea what happened to my TV or to my printer, what that's supposed to do for me - or to me. I did go online to learn a bit about what this Kit Kat business is all about. I have a pretty good idea of what it does for me, and that does seem pretty neat. I just have no idea if there's more to it than meets the eye, something that it does for someone else, something that it does to me. I take some comfort in knowing that damned few children of the Digital Age would know either or even care - but not much.
What are these "Mod Cons" doing to me? What are they doing to you? LG flat screen TVs were recently in the news when it was discovered they were logging what was being watched, even the content of USB memory sticks used to display photos and such, and reporting it all back to the company. Think of all the stuff a cyber-snitch TV could pass along through its meta-data reporting. They'll figure out your approximate age, your IP address, your social station, your political leanings, stuff you might not want people to know you're watching, your consumer preferences - the list is literally endless. My smart TV communicates with my computer. Does that mean it could be a portal for our cyber-spooks to somehow access my computer drives?
It doesn't take a Luddite to rail at this ongoing and apparently growing intrusion into our last refuge of privacy, our very homes. Today technology enables the corporate world and governments to spy on us far more effectively than the Stasi ever did on East Germans. It's enough to make you yearn for a return to the good old Analog days.