With the proliferation of the connected world, privacy (or the lack thereof) should be a major concern for us as citizens. But it isn’t yet. So let me paint a picture of one potential not-so-distant future involving the most mundane of household appliances—your refrigerator.
Let’s say in a few years you go online and buy the latest and greatest connected smart refrigerator by General Electric. Now this fridge does lots of great stuff like automatically cool your fridge zones to the right temperature for the food it detects is stored there. It probably tells you when your food is set to expire. Maybe it reminds you to use up certain foods that have been in there awhile or pulls recipes for the combination of ingredients you have on hand.
Pretty cool right? It could be. Only if that data is my own data.
Buying a GE fridge shouldn’t mean that the company has the right to know about everything I put inside of it right?
If you disagree, then imagine your fridge telling your doctor how many beers actually go in and out every week, or the combination of foods you take out at the same time. Now all of a sudden whoever is getting that data knows what you eat, when you eat it, and how much you drink.
That’s bad. But it could get much worse.
Imagine combining that info with your social media posts to build a profile of your moods and your dietary coping mechanisms for dealing with those moods. Now GE will take that info and sell it to your health care provider.
Every time you eat a snickers your health premium is going up. Chew on that one.
That isn’t the only way this could play out. Maybe the company will stick a little advertisement in your fridge to bombard you with coupons for instant delivery of junk food when you’re feeling shitty. Or maybe your GE Fridge has a higher calling and exposes you to healthy coupons instead.
Whatever the scenario, the point is you have less privacy and your capacity for resistance has decreased because you’re now subject to more specifically targeted messaging designed to hit us when we’re most receptive. All of this happens automatically too as a function of various algorithms. Despite its potential utility, that’s one creepy fucking refrigerator.
What’s worse is that the implications of not being able to opt out of monitoring will only get more frightening in the future. Wearable sensors (or even implants) will give companies unprecedented access to your entire measurable psyche. If we want to go really conspiracy theory with it, what happens when we have nanobots and AI living inside our bodies?
The internet of things, the truly connected world is coming. Is that going to be a good thing?
Last modified: January 7, 2015