Big Brother Is Watching You
In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, citizens of the totalitarian state Oceania are constantly reminded “Big Brother is watching you.” As ominous as this mass surveillance of a fictional civilisation seems, are we complacently doing the same thing to ourselves?
VoucerCloud has released a list of fifty tracking apps (Infographic – See Below) for smart phones (via IT News Africa) , which offer users a multitude of ways to track themselves and their behaviours. Included in this list are apps that allow you to track your heart rate, sleeping habits, and various fitness behaviours, as well as resolutions and to-do lists. Most of these seem fairly harmless and might provide some interesting insight into your life; however there are also apps which allow you to track not only your own movements, but your partner’s movements. Certainly the suggestion is that one would have to willingly allow another to track them, but how easily might someone circumvent this consent? And perhaps you’re quite willing to have your spouse know your every move, but how secure is the data in these apps anyway?
Privacy & Security
A quick search for ‘privacy tracking’ brings up a list of sites which offer options to protect your privacy. It would seem people are particularly concerned with protecting their personal information online, with offerings such as Disconnect, Do Not Track and Blur. These applications and add-ons maintain that criminals and governments alike are tracking you online, and promise to block hackers and trackers while securing your private details. These seem like a good idea; I certainly don’t like the notion that my credit card number is floating around the web, and the appeal of blocking behavioural advertisements is great, but perhaps we should take a step back and evaluate all of the data we’re willingly offering up.
Viewing Choices & Ratings
Currently, I have apps loaded on my Android smart phone that track my viewing choices and ratings, the restaurants I frequent, to-do and to-buy lists, and my movements. I love the fact that Google Home pops up every now and then, telling me how long my drive to work is going to be, pointing out accidents on my route home, and reminding me of flight schedules with tips on the weather at my destination. It does all of this without me ever having requested it. I agreed to the terms, which I didn’t read, ages ago, and am now pleasantly surprised when my phone knows my moves before I do. Perhaps I am being naïve. When I was a child my mom wouldn’t even let me wear a necklace with my name on it for fear someone would use that information to kidnap me, and now I willingly offer far more to any stranger who’s interested.
Conspiracy Theory Types
There are a few people today who refuse to have Facebook and Twitter accounts; request that you keep photographs of them private on your own social pages; and generally remain disconnected from social media. These people are, to my understanding, in the minority, and I’ve always considered them overly mistrustful. Conspiracy theory types. However, as I read through this list of applications, I am forced to reconsider my position. There is an awful lot of information I am dishing out with little or no concern for my privacy and security, and while I can’t really imagine how this might harm me, perhaps I could do to take a leaf from the conspiracy theorists and be a little more aware. Then again, Reporter looks like a fun app! Perhaps it’s a good thing it’s only available for iOS…
By Jennifer Klostermann