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Though privacy may be dying the benefits outweigh the risks


This from tech evangelist and author, Robert Scoble (@scobleizer), speaking to a group in Jerusalem last week.

As reported by David Shamah (@newzgeek) for the Times of Israel, “Privacy may be dead, killed by the modern age of computing, per Scoble, but there is no reason to fear the companies gathering information on us.”

We’ve been living under “surveillance” for awhile now. Banks and other financial institutions have known a lot about us for a long time, and they have been fairly responsible with that information, as have doctors and insurance companies. We’ve trusted credit card companies with a lot of personal data for many years, and they generally have done their best to keep our information safe. For all the reams of data it collects, Google itself has done little more than push ads its algorithms think we may be interested in, which we are free not to click. What we’re seeing now is just an increase in scale of data collected. I think we can trust the marketplace.

With technology comes questions about risks and safety. People will weigh the costs and benefits, per Scoble.

For example, people die in car crashes, but for most of us the benefit we get from cars outweighs the risks of death or damage in an accident. Ditto for credit card use and the benefits we are likely to realize from a connected future.

Big data collection sounds scary and it’s politically incorrect to embrace. But it’s going to be almost impossible to avoid.

By 2020, per Scoble, there will be 50 billion devices in the world connected to the Internet. They’ll be replete with sensors.

Rather than look at sensors as an invasion of privacy, look at it as data collection that will provide us with services and market to us.

  • Sensors in watches and other devices might keep track of pulse, blood pressure and other vital signs, reporting back to the doctor, who will get an alarm if a dangerous medical situation develops.
  • Lights may turn on and off automatically, based on our pattern of use, saving us money.
  • Sensors could alert parents when an infant needs to be fed, or needs to be changed.
  • Apps would check our schedule and the traffic in advance of our trip, and recommend we leave earlier to beat the traffic.
  • Sensors will know that you picked up a box of Cheerios or cookies and a text to an app will ask you if you need milk.
  • Blog publishing applications that will anticipate matters to blog on that will enable us to better engage thought leaders.

“Data collection” sounds better, but Scoble acknowledges we’re talking about a surveillance. A scary thought and not one that everyone is going to embrace, especially those in the legal community.

But Scoble, as do I, believes those who embrace data collection will get a lot more benefits.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Kevin Dooley

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