Somebody’s Watching Me

August 30, 2012

It’s a simple to envision scenario. As a perspective shopper crosses the brick-and-mortar threshold, between embedded RFID and NFC, what’s inside of my wallet is quickly scanned. This isn’t your grandparents’ era of business analytics based on years and years of historic data warehouses, this is near-real time data gathering and heuristic algorithmic triggers that may sample the cologne I’m wearing, track my line of sight eye movements between the aisles and possibly even processing bits of my DNA left behind. Am I describing some scene from Minority Report? Hardly. This is active pursuits by some of the top mobile consumer technologies company currently.  Remember last holiday season’s attempts to track supposedly anonymized GPS signals inside of malls?

A less aggressive version of this is already happening in the fertile eco-system of smart phone apps. Combining social shopping drivers (time limited coupons or pop-up deals), QR scanning and other location-specifying check in functions, now more than ever, retailers have an expanded electronic reach toward their customers. Not satisfied with analyzing past opt-in data, more and more retailers are moving toward capturing all the transient traffic, especially people who are not and by process, opted out of being part of the purchasing demographic. With the proliferation of mobile devices — mobile sensors, practically — at all age groups, there’s never been a richer or more in-depth glimpse of the individual consumer profile than now, by those seeking this information.  It’s getting difficult to see where sampling ends and Orwellian Big Brother begins.

Maybe the retailers are right. Maybe by knowing everything about me, my life would be better served and my needs anticipated and somehow I have save more time and well, effort. Maybe. Because so many people (the so called masses) completely, willingly perhaps unknowingly, offers all that up without hesitation, all of my efforts (not being saved) at remaining anonymous, not glows neon-bright like the anti-pattern that it is. And that pegs me into a hole as well. Of course, all of this is supposed to done with my authorization and consent.  The only true opt-out appears to be turning off my phone.  However, who does that in this always-on/always-connected world we live in?  It may be paranoia, but I cannot shake the feeling that someone is watching me. Even if it’s for my own well being.

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Eddie is a technology enthusiast and a blogger, now, who loves all things Internet and mobile, as if those were two separate things. As part of feyn.com, he's looking to battle the forces of evil, fight crimes and purchase security upgrades to the Metaverse.