No privacy in the digital world
During his two-hour morning bike ride, Eric Hartman doesn’t pay much attention to his iPhone. But the iPhone is paying attention to him.
As he traverses the 30-mile circuit, Hartman’s iPhone knows precisely where he is at every moment, and keeps a record of his whereabouts. That data is beamed to Apple Inc. multiple times each day, whether Hartman is using his phone to take pictures, search for gas stations or check the weather.
And it’s not just the iPhone that’s keeping track. Buying milk? Playing World of Warcraft? Texting dinner plans to friends? Watching an episode of “Glee”? It’s all recorded.
For this kind of surveillance, no fancy spy gadgets are needed. The technological instruments that capture details of the Hartmans’ lives are the ones they use most often: their computers, smartphones and TV systems.
Data gleaned from cellphones alone reveal an enormous amount about us.
This explosion in the amount of data being collected has raised alarms in state capitols and in Washington, where lawmakers of both parties have proposed more than a dozen pieces of privacy legislation this year. But regulatory efforts are drawing resistance from companies such as Google Inc. and Facebook that rely on personal information to sell advertising, and so far, none of the bills has passed.
The Hartmans’ digital devices, like those of millions of other U.S. families, feed into a massive river of personal data that flows back to the servers of technology companies, where it is often kept indefinitely.
Earlier this year, German politician Malte Spitz sued his provider, Deutsche Telekom, to see what data they’d collected about his whereabouts. The resulting set of nearly 36,000 pieces of data was plotted by the German news site Zeit Online, and showed six months’ worth of Spitz’s movements around Germany —often at the street level, on trains, on planes— as well as when he made phone calls and sent text messages.
[Excerpt of article by David Sarno, Los Angeles Times]