For quite some time, the standard refrain about smart phones tracking your location was that you could always turn it off. Initially, this approach to privacy was mostly effective. Then came the ubiquitous security cameras and near instant face recognition against your social media photos. Of course, if you live in the sparsely populated suburbs, you might still have a sliver of anonymity. That will not be the case for much longer.
It turns out that automobile manufacturers are building live tracking systems into the latest automobiles. Well, when you turn the automobile off to disable the tracking, the device is not so useful. Back in January at CES, Ford's Global VP/Marketing and Sales, Jim Farley said out loud what we should have already expected.
Business Week has a fairly good article today on the sad state of affairs.
One of the reasons that I do not record my time and distance during a run is that see no reason to log that information on someone else's server. If my neighbor across the street looks out the window and sees me runnning, that is fine. But why in the world would I want to allow the system administrators at Google or Amazon, not to mention the exercise app developers, to know when and where I like to exercise?
One could certainly argue that my doctor and possibly even my health insurance company would be in a better position to serve my interests with some smart phone trackable information. However, that would not appear to be the case with most free app vendors. Never mind discussing how much of this data the government should be allowed to search.
Turn-by-turn navigation, done right, represents at least one obvious counter example. If Google/Apple/Microsoft Maps detects a traffic jam, it can immediately feed those delays into the routing algorithm, which results in some traffic being routed around the congestion. This helps other users avoid the area and reduces the congestion experienced by those not using turn-by-turn directions. In this scenario, you can argue that allowing location and speed tracking is for the greater good. I know for certain that I have been routed around the parking lot on I-4 in Orlando by Google Maps.
There is a clear parallel between personal activity tracking and emailed bills and notices. If a company is going to track my personal data, they need to figure out what is in it for me. Most banks and utilities wish to deliver my paperwork via email in order to save themselves money on printing and postage. What happens if that crucial information ends up in the junk folder and gets deleted? Does anyone care that most email is still stored and transmitted without encryption? As an enlightened consumer, I expect to obtain some tangible benefit for taking these risks and saving these companies money on notices they are required by law to provide. Not once have I been offered a discount or other benefit for signing up for email delivery. At least with a free smartphone app I get to use the app of whatever questionable quality without paying.
When it comes to automobile insurance, you are supposed to get a discount for safer driving as shown by tracking.
Please tell my that my mountain bike does not have a GPS on board! Let me know in the comment section what you think about personal activity tracking via auto, phone, GPS, bicycle, thermostat, refrigerator and other devices.
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