February 26, 2019

Smile, you’re being ‘watched’ everywhere

            Do you remember the first time you saw and heard Allen Funt say, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera”?
            You laughed, didn’t you?
            You weren’t alone.  America loved watching people who didn’t know they were being viewed by millions on TV, while they were doing silly stuff.
            Fast-forward from Candid Camera’s birth on TV in 1948 to 2019.  Allen Funt is dead, but his idea lives—on high-tech steroids.  Cameras are everywhere, but everyone isn’t laughing.
            I just read that several major airlines have revealed there are cameras in the seat backs of some of their planes.   I don’t think Delta wants to catch you picking your nose.  The cameras are a part of the entertainment/video-conferencing system.  Still, somebody somewhere is watching you.
            Have you ever gotten a traffic citation for running a red light, courtesy of a camera at the intersection?
            In attempts to fight and solve crimes, you see cameras in stores and on sidewalks.  If I were a convenience-store clerk, I’d want a camera covering every square inch—inside and out. Who wouldn’t?  Well, unless you were the criminal.
            So much of this new technology is wonderful.  I like the ability of having a doorbell with a camera.  You can see who’s on your porch—friend or foe.  And if you have a remote property, you can watch what’s going on.  Along with viewing wildlife, you can see—on your cell phone—who’s there and who shouldn’t be.
            Yes, I like some of this.
            But what I don’t like is the constant tracking, courtesy of cell phones, TVs and other gadgets.
Ever notice that, when you are ordering a meal at a drive-through window, the establishment knows you are there and sends you a message?  And if you walk into a store, the merchant—via your phone—pings, “We know you are here.”
            I don’t like that.
            And if you ever buy an item—say, a tennis racket—online, get ready.  You are going to be bombarded with pitches for other tennis paraphernalia.  Data storage is huge in marketing today.  Amazon is the world’s champion.  The cyber sleuths will track and hound you all the way to your grave.
            Granted, it’s savvy, but I don’t like that. 
            Unless you go off the communications grid, you can run, but you can’t hide from data brokers.
            If you are sipping a latte in a coffee shop and using the establishment’s Wi-Fi, you are being monitored.  And all those apps you are using invite snoopers to soak your data into their cyber sponge. 
            If you watch America’s Got Talent on a smart-TV system, you can be assured someone is “watching” your habits and developing a strategy to use that information.
            Politicians have dialed into this and are using campaign technology to know whether you were at a town-hall meeting, helping to ascertain your political behavior.  And guess what?  With that information, they can laser a specific message to you. 
            That’s creepy.
            Now, imagine how much Big Brother (our government) could be watching or listening to us.
            That’s scary.
            When does genius cross the line and invade personal privacy?
            I believe we are very near that crossroads.
            This isn’t Allen Funt’s Candid Camera. 
            And it ain’t funny.