CES speaker warns of tech data-grabbing

CES, one of the biggest world technology conferences, has taken place for 2015, and amid the excitement and demonstrations of truly impressive tech, even more qualms about privacy preservation have been raised.

Wearable tech is the next natural evolution to technology. The devices we carry in our pockets have become so advanced, we are now looking at the next new thing, which, for the most part, is wrist mounted.

Problems are arising, however, when people feel threatened by having technology always switched on, always on us, and always monitoring.

Edith Ramirez, speaking for the US Federal Trade Commission, discussed the Internet of Things (IoT), the oncoming internet link between technologies in our homes, pockets, cars and on our wrists, and the way that data, if not controlled and restricted, could be used to form a prejudiced impression about people.

This could be damaging if Universities or companies were allowed to view this picture of each individual’s life, Ramirez said, and warned that the “information flowing in from our smart cars, smart devices, and smart cities… could allow information to be used in ways that are inconsistent with consumers’ expectations or relationship with a company.”

She warned that a TV or tablet may track what kinds of programs you watch and then use this information, discreetly, to target you with specified ads. Some might say that this wouldn’t be too bad, if, after all, it would reflect the things that we are interested in.

But Ramirez then went on to talk about how data could potentially be shared with brokers, combined with “information collected by your parking lot security gate, your heart monitor, and your smart phone,” and this starts to worry at how information could be used by insurance companies.

On the other hand, one example covered by the BBC program Click, involved a piece of wearable tech used by a company to track the motions of their employees, while keeping them anonymous.

Although originally a frightening idea, wearing a spy on your wrist that will feed your activity directly to your boss, the anonymity of the employees is guaranteed. So what is the point then? Well examples given include looking at worker productivity and seeing how it matches with the company canteen menu. If there is one meal that seems to make people lethargic and therefore bored and unproductive throughout the afternoon, they can change it.

Whether you think tech is a threat to privacy or not, there is nothing to be done to stop it becoming more and more available and integral to our every days lives over the next few years.

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