When Your Toothpaste And Your Bus To Work Will Track You

You care about your future; you care about everybody’s future.

So I urge you to read this short article from yesterday from Sophos Security on the subject of billboards that track your movements:

Sophos: The ‘spying billboards’ that track you as you walk by

And I definitely also urge you to watch this brilliant and captivating video from 2010 by Jessie Schell from Carnegie Mellon University on the future – when your toothpaste will track your habits and give you points towards your insurance premiums.

As he says – it’s coming and what’s going to stop it? The question is, who is going to do it and why?

Jessie Schell at DICE 2010: Design Outside the Box

So what is the future going to be like? Is it going to be Edward Snowden and revelations about the NSA and GCHQ? Will it be private advertisers contracted to do it for a fee and keep the advertising data for themselves? Will it be a benevolent society encouraging us all to do and be better?


  1. Rebekah M says:

    So far, I’ve read the first one. I did not know about this (the billboards) before. I’m not very good at remembering to turn off wifi.

    Sometimes I get so ‘tired’, I can’t even muster up the energy to get upset about it, because it feels pointless. Theoretically I have twenty some years left to live, and I’ll try to live them in the most enjoyable way possible … away from billboards 🙂


    1. I don’t mind what they do. What I do mind is who the next ‘they’ will be. The standard defence is that the people who use this data are good guys or ‘just like us’ guys. But the slide to the right is happening across Europe and this is how surveillance sneaks in. It has to be stopped.


      1. Rebekah M says:

        Yes, and I never really believed in any ‘good guys’. It’s just a frustrating feeling, what’s going on, and I doubt I can do much about it. Okay, I know — it would be terrible if everyone reasoned the same way as I. The slide to the right is scary and sad. My own country isn’t what it was when I left it, twelve years ago today.


        1. Yes, maybe no good guys – but people who are trying. And in an imperfect world, even if one cannot do much, we can do a little – and maybe affect the outcome.


        2. Rebekah M says:

          That’s what I would like to think. Guess I just have a rather pessimistic outlook right now. It comes and goes.


        3. Yes, me too. It comes and goes. When I see the destruction of the wildlife that I love, it knocks the heart out of me. When I hear inspiring words it heartens me.

          I like that I cry for the things that I believe in – for people and the world to be allowed to flourish. I want that pain to drive me forward.

          The Web is full of vacuous ‘inspirational’ quotes and that is a different kind of overload. And we get weary.

          Tamara and I went to see a documentary last night about the life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

          At the end of his acceptance speech for his novel One Hundred Years Of Solitude, he said:

          “Faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.”


        4. Rebekah M says:

          That was so beautiful, the acceptance speech. Many years ago, it was when Internet was all new to us, perhaps 1995, I watched a BBC documentary about some Indians in North America and their myths and tales. Can’t even remember which group it was. One thing they said, though, that must have made a great impression on me, was that it wasn’t too late — we had one last chance. That this ‘world’ we’re living in right now is our last chance, and a web will be spun around it which will help connect us.
          The motivational/inspirational quotes in FB has reached a point where they rather anger me, because they certainly don’t change anything. Especially the ones that send me on a guilt trip, where I’m ‘supposed to share’.
          I think I’ve lost the ability to cry, it’s like a numbness in my soul (except one C&W song I can always turn on if I’d feel the need to cry), but of all the misery; cruelty to animals is what upsets me the most. It makes me go ballistic.

          Having said all that, still, when I see or read some story about how humans have stepped up to save a stranded whale (or whatever the case might be), leads me to think there’s still hope and it warms my heart.


  2. DataMining is everywhere: in Social Media; the RFID readers in the security “gates” as you enter and exit a store/ pass by in the mall, those courtesy “tags” from stores you frequent; those “free” AirPoints you collect in your purchases; )… Need I go on?

    Never mind CCTV for our own protection. 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Soylent Green – well not quite yet 😉


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