Sunday, May 19, 2013

Are We Becoming a World According to Google?

A recent article on CNN referenced Google expanding the capability of Maps. I use Maps. Not a great deal, it is handy when my wife doesn't know a yard sale location, or if we have to travel to a site we've not visited before. I've used it to check out travel routes, even though I know the way by heart just to see if a more direct or convenient route has opened up. I can find where a friend has moved to, or if I wanted to visit them how far would I have to travel. I find the response and convenience astounding and to me it has a very practical application.

However, this article referred to the idea that Google was expanding the Map software to become an interactive software that will record your inquiries and suggest points of interest, restaurants, etc according to your queries. Sounds nice, I might like to know what restaurants are nearby a place I am going to visit. However, over time the data base will be full of my travel, my exploration on line, my preferences, my likes and dislikes. In short the data assembled will form a pretty complete picture of who I am, what I do, where I go, and a whole host of personal information. 

We already have huge amounts of data stored in data bases out in the cloud, now we shall have another type of data. I wonder, how far will this go. It won't stop, there will never be a time that the data bases know all they want to know. The issue is how will it be used. I'm not sure we can stop it. After all, a lot of the convenience we enjoy such as on line shopping, banking, ordering theater tickets, plane tickets, hotel reservations, etc involve the transfer of data about ourselves. This data is already accumulated by such firms as Axiom. How many times have you researched a topic on the internet just to find an email from a related topic in your in box the next morning. I just did. 

Under the guise of Homeland Security, anti-terrorist security and the search for pedophiles, pornographers, sex-slave rings, and a whole host of evil doings the access to information about our personal lives has to be of compelling interest to those agencies. Therefore, I do not think we can stop information gathering and classification. I'm not sure I want to, but we certainly are forced into a trust of our government to properly use the data. Can they be trusted. I think most would say not. I wonder how one gets off the grid?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Too much convenience?

I like convenience, particularly in my computer and electronic "stuff." I like a remote that is easy to use and is multi-functional. I like the ergonomic keyboard that Microsoft came out with years ago, I have big hands and a regular key board forces me to keep my elbows in and forearms straight to type decently. The ergonomic board allows me to keep my arms relaxed and the raised bottom provides wrist support. I like speed in my computer. I recall when the Internet first came out and I was up to date with a 14.4 Kbs modem. I'd fall asleep waiting for the screen to refresh. Now it is much quicker, but I'd like instantaneous. I like excel and the power of word processing.

I like having my banking on line and used auto-download for entering my spending transactions into Quicken. I order quite a bit from and am mostly pleased with the speed with which I can order things and complete the transaction, sometimes with less waiting time than in-store purchases.

However, I was yanked back a little the other day when I saw and essurance ad that was extolling the speed with which they could give you a quote on car insurance. The ad said, a couple of clicks and we'll have all your cars that you can get quotes on. One part of me likes the speed and convenience. The other side of me says where are they getting the data from and how so quickly. I've read articles about huge data bases that house our buying, banking, and spending habits. Many of us pay with either credit or debit cards and all of those transactions are recorded someplace. Now with the capability to compile and query, vast stores of information are known by some machine that concern our life style. This is disturbing. I don't think I have any transactions that might be taken as surreptitious, but then I really don't know my life style pattern that a third party might become aware of.

I think we, as citizens have to be more vocal, more action oriented, and more on guard about what our government advocates and/or allows. Privacy is becoming more and more of an issue. Now with the war on terrorism the government, probably with good reason, wants access to private transactions and in fact has a profile(s) used to uncover potential acts of terrorism . So is it unpatriotic to fight against the invasion of privacy for the sake of safety? Or should we take the stand that we  hold privacy sacred above all consideration. This seems to be a very tough question for our society to meaningfully debate. I stand with privacy, yet my logic makes the need to know all manner of information rational and just. So I am torn and have not really been able to think my way out of this box yet. 

I'll let you know.