Consumers sacrifice privacy for better technology, despite risks
Proponents argue that there are many benefits to the procedure. One proponent, PositiveID, a company based in Florida, specializes in implanting a small chip into a customer’s body that holds his or her health records. The benefit is not that obvious, but makes sense: If a customer is a victim of a serious car accident, for instance, and is unconscious or unable to provide critical information, paramedics have instant access to the victim’s important health records via the data chip. These records will facilitate urgent treatment. Some say that such technology saves lives and should be, in some cases, mandatory.
On the other hand, opponents argue that such an Orwellian procedure is the beginning of a slippery slope towards a society in which citizens are constantly monitored—and even manipulated by ill-intentioned forces. Many point to issues of security and privacy violation. Perhaps the most compelling objection to the idea, in my opinion, involves hypothetical scenarios in which health records are linked to credit scores.
I think both arguments are rather silly, especially the former. Why? Well, the great majority of us already have chips. In other words, we may not have chips implanted in our arms or brains, but we certainly have chips in our pockets: they are called cell phones.
Equally laughable is the alarm caused by a recent article published by The New York Times entitled “It’s Tracking Your Every Move and You May Not Even Know”. The article, which has caused quite a stir, reveals just how cell phone companies store massive amounts of data about a customer’s location at any given time. While the average consumer can surmise that cell phone companies are able to store and use this data, no proof of these capabilities has been revealed in certain terms until now. Still, it is not that shocking. Perhaps the only shock is how much consumers depend on private companies to guard customer data and use it for “benign” purposes.
Often, our faith in companies to do the right thing comes as a result of our dependency on their products. I am sure that when cell phones, equipped with GPS features, were introduced to the market, consumers had major privacy and other legitimate concerns. However, after billions of cell phones were sold and a few years passed, those concerns faded, weakened by what has become a necessary technology. The same could happen with the nascent, implant debate mentioned earlier.
In short, the amount of data stored by companies about customers goes way beyond location records obtained by cell phone usage or health records stored by chip implants. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as it were. And, most of us know it. The New York Times article focuses on Germany, not the United States where cell phone companies do not have to report what information they collect. Here in the United States, companies are probably more advanced. Regardless, consumers all over the world must understand that as technology advances, so too must the effort to protect individual privacy. It is the only solution in a highly technological world where “unplugging” is not an option.