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Commentary: Welcome to the age of data: Watch your back!

Welcome to the age of data: Watch your back! by Molly Wood

  • “This week’s iPhone location tracking scandal is just the latest glaring spotlight on how much of your personal information is gushing out the door, whether unprotected on your own devices and ripe for the picking, or into corporate and botnet servers worldwide. Personal information is the currency of the post-technological age, and the cost of “free” has never been higher. Your data, on an increasingly minute and personal level, powers every Web or network-based company, from start-up to monolith. Google maintains literally acres of servers dedicated to storing your communications–from e-mail to texts to the transcripts of your voice mail; your browsing and shopping habits; your blog posts; your photos; your calendar appointments; and of course, your intensely personal search histories. If you’re logged in to a Google service, that information is all tied to your IP address. Only the thinnest of artificial technical barriers–a sort of loose privacy honor system–keeps Google from combining the data into a scarily accurate digital version of you (like the first digital Cylon, if you will). But pity poor Google, which must gather all this information by increasingly intrusive means, like the DoubleClick ad cookie that tracks your browsing all across the Web, surreptitious Wi-Fi sniffing, and sending location information about you back to its data centers even when you’re not running location apps. On the other side of the aisle lies Facebook, which has cleverly cajoled 500 million users (and growing) into giving up virtually all the same information for free. Profiles, Places, Deals, and of course, the ever-present Like button, which lets you easily record your preferences for everything from opinions to shoes to celebrities and bands…you can almost imagine Facebook whispering a little “thank you” every time you click that little blue button.”
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