We live in a society where technology has completely transformed the way we work, conduct personal business, and enjoy our leisure time. The changes that occur seem to offer us more and more all the time. However, there are some trade offs that you have to look at too when it comes to those benefits. When you benefit from technology that is offered, you also have to take into consideration what you are giving up with it. The issue of the loss of being anonymous along with the loss of privacy continues to grow. The controversy over if the government or the manufacturers of such technology have the right to track us continues to be a hotly debated topic. Let’s take a look at a few examples of such technology out there. As you evaluate what it offers and what you may be compromising you can decide if it is right for you to accept and use. Technology is something for us to embrace and to benefit from, but many people wonder about the overall cost. They worry that we may have gone beyond our means with it. There are also those that worry about the underlying motives for some individuals. What is it that they are really trying to accomplish that could be part of their own hidden agenda ?
Accepting technology without asking such questions, understanding your rights, or being well informed is dangerous. If that has been your method up to now, it is time to make a change that can really help you to feel good about what you use. It can also help you from falling into common consumer pitfalls out there.
The use of technology known as Cloud Computing allows for data and applications to be accessed by a business remotely. As a result, there is no longer a requirement for programs to be installed locally. From a business point of view this means that they can work with employees or even freelancers all over the world. It also means that their employees that travel for work can also access what they need to when they are away from the office. However, Cloud Computing also has some issues with it. The concerns over privacy and trust have been at the top of the list of media topics. Sony recently experienced such a situation when their Playstation network was hacked. It certainly disrupted the ability for paying customers to get what they pay for. Cloud Computing has proven to be a great resource when it works like it should. However, there are many weaknesses to consider. For example who else is able to access the data? What types of laws can cover the protection of such data too? Jurisdiction problems continue to surface all the time in a world where cloud computing can be anywhere. When such a central operation fails, it can make a business look unprofessional too. They won’t have the information they need for accounts, employees, and more. When such a service fails, it can cause panic because those that need such data may have no other way to access it at that point in time. That is the cost of giving up control to a remote thirdparty.
Many consumers now use Google Documents so that they can share, update, and create documents for several users to share. Since Google has such a solid reputation out there, many consumers assume they have nothing to risk by using this type of technology. However, all users of Cloud Computing need to take care when they access such materials. For example passwords need to be well protected so that they aren’t easy to guess. You never want to risk the wrong person gaining access to those documents or that data you have a right to view. Deleting cookies when using computers in public locations is also important. Many people don’t do this from a laptop, but they should. Laptops are often lost or stolen, so make sure you don’t leave information that can be easily compromised. If you do use Google Documents, keep in mind that there are glitches that have already been identified with that program. Such glitches have made it possible for subscribers to get access to a percentage of the documents that are stored on the services without permission to do so. As a user of such technology, you have to ask yourself if you are willing to take that risk of your documents being among those or not. Control. Even as new technology and methods are introduced to make Cloud Computing more secure, so are the methods that unethical hackers, organisations and even governments use to be able to access such information. They are always working on something too and that is why a risk will continue to be in place. Still, there is no doubt that Cloud Computing has definitely changed, up to some height, the way that people do business around the world.
The use of tracking devices has certainly increased in the past 5 years. Today, quite a few people have a GPS device that they use to find addresses, places to eat, businesses, and more. They keep it in their car so that they can always find an alternate route locally or what they are searching for when they go out of town. The days of using maps for travel is almost obsolete due to the GPS devices or modules which are often integrated or part of a device which primary function is not acting as a GPS to find your way. Not only do such devices help you to find where you are going, but they also allow for your movements to be tracked. For example many car rental locations have a GPS device in their vehicles. They want to know where that vehicle happens to be at all times. Rent to Own centers were recently under fire for placing GPS chips in furniture, appliances, and computers that consumers rented from them. They stated this was to ensure that if the items weren’t paid for, they would be able to locate them easily. For too many consumers though, such a tracking device is an invasion of their privacy. You may think your iPad or iPhone is a great tool for finding information and doing anything you like. Yet as you are performing various tasks with it, you are also being tracked. Apple is using such information to find out what consumers are looking for, what they are doing, and how they can make their business better to meet those needs. From another prospective though, who else is being able to access that same type of information ? What can they be doing with it too that isn’t directly related to the use of marketing ?
Some parents love the idea of being able to buy their teenager a mobile phone with a tracking device. Then they can always pinpoint where they are at. Some parents of younger children like that too. They worry about their child getting lost or even abducted. However, most people aren’t thrilled with tracking devices keeping an eye on where they are, what they are doing, what they look at online, and more. Most people do have a mobile phone these days and cell phone towers allow for moments to be recorded all the time. There are practical times though when a tracking device is a good tool. For example some people place them into the collar of their beloved pets. As a result they can find them if they get lost or stolen. You wouldn’t send out an armored vehicle with tons of money to banks, casinos, and other facilities without being able to successfully track every movement of such a vehicle. Satellites are the reason why we are able to track movements and have such devices. They certainly have their value, but there can also be questions about invasion of privacy. Before you use such a device, it could be a good idea to find out what type of tracking is being recorded. You should also inquire about why such tracking is being done so that you can decide if you want to embrace such technology or not.
Government and Technology
The issues over the government and conspiracy theories are nothing new. Yet the number of people that fear the government has too much control with technology continues to grow. For example the controversy over the use of body scan technology for airport screening.
On the other hand though you do have those people that feel it is a good idea for them to all they can do to keep everyone safe. Those that remember vividly the fear and the heartache that resulted from September 11, 2001 continue to support the government and their use of technology to keep us all save. The government has many central databases in place to offer protection. For example the taking of fingerprints of those that have been at the police station. This allows for matches to be made when fingerprints can be taken from a crime scene. The use of centralized information to get out. A criminal can’t just move around and not be under the microscope. Think about how the use of DNA technology has helped the area of forensic science to solve very complex crimes. Without such technology, many serious criminals would likely still be on the street. As a result of the value of fingerprints and DNA there have been those asking the government to mandate it. Their idea is that by getting the fingerprints and DNA for every person out there, and for all newborns, there will be far less risk of crimes. People will know that it is too risky and that can be a huge deterrent. Yet there aren’t really validated statistics about how this would work and if it really will prevent determined minds to commit crimes. Some argue that the cost is just too much for the government to get such personal materials from people and store it in today’s technology. However, you also have to think about the amount of money that is spent annually tracking down people, looking for missing individuals, and more.
People don’t want to live under the microscope, but those that don’t have anything to hide often would consent to mandatory offerings of DNA and fingerprints. Yet we live in a government that offers freedom as a foundation of society. Even if people had the choice to do it, many parents would for their newborns and they could be tracked for life by the government just by that decision. In some government agencies that are high profile, security is very important. They use a variety of personal vices to be able to successfully identify who is accessing anything out there. For example eye retina approval and an entire hand print for access. This is well beyond just a username and password to get into secure areas. The terminology for measuring biological traits is called biometrics. This is what is referred to as being able to verify the identity of someone through various types of characteristics that are specific to one individual. It is believed that this use of biometrics can eliminate the need for ID badges and even time cards in some locations. Both of those elements can be fraudulent to some degree, and biometrics can offer a new level of security. Even though biometric devices are widely used, there can be problems that are encountered. What if an airport is relying on them and they aren’t working like they should ? This can result in the wrong people being accepted and the right people being rejected from accessing certain areas. Even though the error rates are very low with biometric devices, there is still the potential for such a problem to occur.
Traveling abroad is a common element of life, and many people that live in the USA/EU like to travel outside of the home country. In late 2004, the idea of smart passports that have a microchip in them was created. This helps to reduce the chances of passports being created fraudulently. The use of digital passports will likely be the future for all USA/EU citizens, among others, that have one. Such technology helps to ensure that they are authentic. It is also believed that this will reduce the selling of illegal passports on the black market. But, there is a but, all that biometric data stored is a huge responsibility for those who introduce it and guard it. History learns that governments can change from one end of the scale to the other. Your data does not and remains available to whoever is in power and it might be used for something totally different than it was intended for.
If you aren’t familiar with the term DPI in the context of traffic analysis, it is short for Deep Packet Inspection. When applied in commercial motivated settings this is more often used by (mobile / telecom) internet providers to keep an eye on the traffic of users. This was initially created to prevent users from accessing free applications in a given area. As a result, they have to buy / use those services that are from a particular (mobile) internet provider instead ending up with a higher bill. Which in itself raises questions concerning netneutrality and privacy issues. While this part is about commercial entities applying this technology you might as well replace it with governments. The same questions and awareness applies to the case where governments use DPI. Yet what many consumers need to realize is that there are times when that information isn’t being used for just that specific purpose. There is really no way to know who else is going to be able to gain access to that type of information and what they will use it for. Unethical entities have many clever ways to get information that they can turn around and use for their own agenda.
It is always a good idea to read the terms and conditions as well as the policies of any provider. The materials may be dry and boring, but they can provide you with valuable information about what you can expect from the use of that (mobile) internet provider. If you don’t read the information you may be putting yourself at risk without even knowing it. Since that provider has offered such materials for all users to read and agree to, they can’t be held liable either. Never assume that your access to materials online is always going to be secure. Get into the habit of learning of what your provider can do and can't as well as the individual policies and procedures for a given website / service. It is really upsetting to many people to learn that their provider knows about the emails they send or receive, about the music that they buy, share, and listen to, and even about downloads and websites that they visit. The layers of information run very deep too. Even if you delete cookies and materials from your computer, it still remains deep under those layers and on top of that new recent laws forcing (traditional) internet providers to log communications. These are saved for up to a 1 year in most cases but who verifies that or is there a guarantee no copies are made ?
The mobile broadband providers, for example, justify that they really need these materials in order to offer the best services. They defend such efforts due to consumers always wanting a quick connection and a very fast internet speed. The technology that is out there for marketing and other efforts can walk a thin line between what someone needs to know for successful marketing and what can be considered as invasive. To help offset such situations, some countries have now laws in place that provide (mobile) internet users with what is referred to as netneutrality. This means that internet service providers can no longer implement such types of restrictions out there. In the mean time though, there are still many loopholes and countries were such laws aren’t being upheld or even in place, not to mention those doing it in total secrecy anyway.
Consumers that use mobile internet providers need to be extremely careful about what information they access with their smartphone and other devices. Many people use such forms of technology to be able to check email, to review business data, share documents, to check personal accounts, and more. All of that may be tracked and so you just need to really make sure you don’t access information that could be a risk to you if it gets into the wrong hands. Wait until you are able to benefit from a secure location / service instead. The growth of traffic continues to be a concern too with (mobile) internet providers in general. As that growth continues by enormous numbers, it means that they don’t always have the methods and the level of security in place that can handle that number of consumers. Many experts believe that the solution for this is to have a streamlined network out there that all service providers work through. This will allow for a steady flow of traffic and for applications to be very simple to use. The traffic can be moving from one network to the next without causing huge overhead costs for any such entity to experience. As result, this could allow all mobile networks to one day be successfully in alignment with the World Wide Web.
A centralized solution solving a problem but creating a new one of privacy and data analysis. The complexities for such an IP set up has many faucets that have to be explored. The ability to offer a seamless effort, low cost, but also to offer consumers a level of privacy that they accept is very important.
Technology continues to offer us one new thing after another. If you look back just 10 or 20 years you can name off many devices that we didn’t have back then. As a society, we have to deal with the issue of balancing our privacy with that technology so that we can do what is in the best interest of society as a whole. The issue is complex and it is going to take time for such solutions to be found. Consumers have more of a say though than they realize when it comes to such concerns over technology and privacy. For example by not buying a given product it sends a strong message. Contacting the business to tell them why you aren’t buying their product goes even further. If a company gets enough such responses they will think about modifying their methods in order to gain more of the market. The same goes for those who are voted to govern the country. What is the view of politicians in the race to power concerning liberties and privacy ? That might be a good idea to keep in mind next time when you cast your vote.
As technology continues to evolve, there will be complex issues on various levels. Balancing what is of value with personal rights will continue to be a concern. It isn’t always up to the government either to be able to successfully implement laws or make such decisions. It requires a pro-active attitude and people to be informed. Consumers love to live in the age of technology for the most part. They enjoy the many perks that come with it. Learning both sides of it all makes you a well informed party. Then when there are issues to be dealt with such as privacy concerns and more you will be able to take a stand on them. Should such issues go to the government, there will be voting on them. You want to be able to have your voice heard.
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