Big Brother is here, it’s the bots

June 25 would have been the 110th birthday of George Orwell. I was reminded of this by the article in Popsci which features some pretty odd photos, here’s an example:

Surveillance camera donning hat in celebration of Orwell birthday

Surveillance camera donning hat in celebration of Orwell birthday

So they say one picture is worth a thousand words; in this case that’s not the case. Facebook, Google, et.al. are taking your words (and pictures too), thousands, millions of them and crunching them into big data piles that then get analyzed and simonized and turned into the real truth about you, which then gets turned into “gold” for the data miners who make sure the information gets into the right hands.  How important is all of this in the world of goods and services? Very important. McKinsey&Company, one of the “mining companies” that stands to gain by all of this makes it abundantly clear how critical the data is to our future as a society in the “picture” they paint in their post:

Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity

They’re not kidding around. The larger question is whether all of this manipulation and usage of personal information is innocuous, beneficent, or malevolent?  It is not yet clear what the big picture will be.

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The Google “Street View” controversy

Nothing like a good controversy to help “clear the air” or in this case “the view”. Controversy, by definition involves a difference of opinion; in this case, most immediately, between Privacy International and Google, as regards Google’s quite remarkable – strictly technically speaking – imaging of the streets of, the United States, the United Kingdom…soon coming to a location near you. Google has stated that its ultimate goal is to provide street views of the entire world.

My purpose in this post is to heighten awareness of the issue in question, not to take a fixed position on the matter as at this point in the debate, I have lots of ambivalence.

To say this is a significant issue is to say very little. It is mega-significant as it revolves around some of the same public/private communication issues I have addressed in a previous post: https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/31/sexting-is-it-public-or-private-communication/

In a world which has the capacity through technology to “expose” just about anything to the light of day,  is it valid to do so; in other words just because it can be done, should it be done?

Google refers to its “Street View” imagery as “the product” . That’s the way they “view” it; as simply another “can of peas” in their voluminous online supermarket which apparently has garnered huge interest for a variety of reasons. What those reasons may be depend on the user – whether a realtor or a would be burgler.

Google has been responsive to a number of concerns raised over time. The United States Department of Homeland Security requested Google delay the release of some of its street views of the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area because some of the images might be of security sensitive areas. Google complied. The Pentagon has banned Google from publishing “Street View” content of U.S. Military bases and asked Google to remove  existing content of bases. Google complied.

More recently, residents of Broughton, in Buckinghamshire, England have balked at what to them is felt to be an invasion of privacy and threat to their security. As has been reported in newspapers around the world, they forced a “Google car” equipped with the sophisticated camera necessary for the purpose, to leave the neighborhood under – dare we say, surveillance.

I urge the readers of this blog to acquaint themselves with the varying perspectives attending this “global” issue. For starters visit these pertinent sites of the protagonists: http://maps.google.com/help/maps/streetview/faq.html http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd[347]=x-347-564075

For a British Commonwealth point of view on the recent “Broughton” affair try: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/villagers-block-google-street-view-20090405-9soi.html

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/05/the-google-street-view-controversy/

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