Privacy or a smartphone?

Wesleying co-founder Holly Wood ’08 sends in this article from Sunday’s New York Times on diminishing privacy in the information age. The latest hit? Roughly 100 students at MIT have been given free smartphones that track their every action–calls, texts, music, e-mail, and so on–in an attempt to provide a detailed picture of their dorm’s (Random Hall) social life:

[A]bout 100…students living in Random Hall at M.I.T. have agreed to swap their privacy for smartphones that generate digital trails to be beamed to a central computer. Beyond individual actions, the devices capture a moving picture of the dorm’s social network.

The students’ data is but a bubble in a vast sea of digital information being recorded by an ever thicker web of sensors, from phones to GPS units to the tags in office ID badges, that capture our movements and interactions. Coupled with information already gathered from sources like Web surfing and credit cards, the data is the basis for an emerging field called collective intelligence.

But even its practitioners acknowledge that, if misused, collective intelligence tools could create an Orwellian future on a level Big Brother could only dream of.

“Some have argued that with new technology there is a diminished expectation of privacy,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy rights group in Washington. “But the opposite may also be true. New techniques may require us to expand our understanding of privacy and to address the impact that data collection has on groups of individuals and not simply a single person.”

WAR IS PEACE.
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

NY Times: “You’re Leaving a Digital Trail. What about Privacy?”

8 thoughts on “Privacy or a smartphone?

  1. Anonymous

    How is this at all useful to anyone except advertisers? Or people who are idly curious and already unhealthily obsessed with social networking?

  2. Anonymous

    How is this at all useful to anyone except advertisers? Or people who are idly curious and already unhealthily obsessed with social networking?

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