RIOT – You Can’t Hide, So Don’t Even Think About Running

Science is dangerous; we have to keep it most carefully chained and muzzled.” ― Aldous HuxleyBrave New World 

The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.” ― George Orwell1984

Sense a theme here?

Raytheon, the fifth largest defense contractor in the world has developed software that scours the internet and social networks and creates a profile capable of “tracking people’s movements and predicting future behaviour by mining data from social networking websites.” (source: Guardian UK). named RIOTRapid Information Overlay Technology (see video).

In other words, it quickly identifies who you and your friends are; where you’ve been; what you’ve done and by analyzing all of that data can predict where you’re going and what you’re going to do. It amplifies the concept of GAFA (pronounced, “gaff-ah”). Simply put, if you are active online, GAFA knows just about everything about you already: Google knows everything you’ve searched on including medical conditions; movie times; travel plans and more; Apple knows all about your musical taste and podcast subscriptions; Facebook is all about your friends and family, relationships, photos, etc.; and Amazon knows all about the things you research before you buy and your ultimate choices.

Now, add to that all of the GPS related services now commonplace on smartphones and tablets. Check-ins on Facebook, Foursquare and other location based services; and actual images of every photo you’ve uploaded online. All of that information — about you — fed into a system that analyzes, categorizes and theorizes to predict your future activity.

Privacy (whether real or an illusion) is the price we pay as a modern society for the benefits we enjoy every day from the Internet and smartphone technology. Want to go back to directionless maps? How about online dinner reservations, flower ordering or any of the other day-to-day activities that made our lives easier. As Huxley wrote, “for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better

My advice? Don’t sweat it. Live a good honest life and you won’t have to worry about what breadcrumbs you’re leaving on the Web. But also keep up-to-date on Internet privacy law. Every society needs the gadfly — one who upsets the status quo by constantly questioning it, and so I belong to the Electronic Frontier Foundation which constantly monitors court cases and legislation that threatens to reduce online freedoms. I don’t agree with every stand they take, but I value the role they play.

None of this is new, by the way. Back when I worked for AOL during its heyday members constantly accused us of reading every Instant Message posted (we weren’t). Back then, we were processing more IMs daily than the pieces of mail handled by the U.S. Postal Service (and this was back when the Post Office was still big).

But if information is indeed power, then technology that quickly analyzes and predicts the behavior of individuals or groups is a powerful — or dangerous — tool.

But for most of us, the old adage rings true:

You wouldn’t worry so much about what other people think about you, if you realized how little they did.

About Ron Casalotti
I am part of that lucky generation that started out when watching TV meant choosing from three networks, three independents and PBS. Now, I work in new media for businesses and organizations - but these thoughts are my own.

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