On the short-sightedness of the privacy apathists
Many people say they don’t care about what data Big Tech is collecting on them. “I’ve got nothing to hide” is a common explanation for this. But, just because you’re comfortable with the ways your being tracked today doesn’t mean you will be in the future, when more data points are available for aggregation.
Soon, many of us could be wearing an Augmented Reality headset from Apple, Google or others. There has been a lot of speculation around these devices over the years, but I haven’t seen anyone talk about the user privacy implications.
Apple’s rumoured AR glasses sound very similar to Google Glass. Essentially, a pair of glasses with cameras, sensors and screens. They can see what you can see, they can track your eyes and they can show you what you want to see, over the top of what you’re looking at. These will likely be peripheral to your smart phone, with most processing and networking taking place on your phone.
In a world where you’re using smart glasses, a phone and a smart watch from a single vendor, they’ll have access to:
- Biometrics like heart rate, blood oxygen and blood pressure.
- Mobility data such as your location, walking speed and stability.
- What you’re looking at (thanks to cameras on your AR glasses and object recognition).
- Your browsing and messaging history.
And a lot more. What is interesting is the kind of things companies will be able to infer from the combination of biometric data and the awareness of where you are and what you’ve been looking at. For example, they could infer:
- Taste in food.
- What kind of people you’re attracted to.
- What kind of people you dislike.
- Specific people who you like and dislike.
This will be extremely valuable information to have in a targeted advertising context. If consumers and regulators allow company’s to collect and use this data, they will. And this is only one example of how the breadth of data collection is likely expand with new technologies.
Given the inevitable expansion of data points, I think consumers should take this seriously today and choose privacy-first products today, even if they aren’t too concerned about what Google or Facebook know about them today.
21 July, 2021
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