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March 27, 2011

Consumers sacrifice privacy for better technology, despite risks

Every now and then, the controversial topic of implanting microchips into human beings for various purposes comes up. I find the debate quite interesting.

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. 

Read The New York Times article.


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I definitely agree that new technology is beneficial to many people but it needs of self discipline to avoid any negative effects to our life.

This new technology is beneficial if ever the customer is in an accident, and his identity is needed immediately in order to save him. But this can also give the customers a feeling of constantly being monitored.

I support these mobile information devices. It could be the difference of life and death in car accidents.

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Greetings! I’m Kevin D. Johnson, a business owner who has recently assumed the role of consumer advocate and internet activist. Atlanta, Georgia is my home.

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Upon returning from my wonderful honeymoon in Jamaica in October 2008, I received what I thought was an ordinary American Express bill, but to my surprise it was a disappointing letter informing me that my credit line was reduced by about 65% for a highly suspicious and discriminatory reason. Considering my excellent credit score and pristine payment history, it just didn’t make sense. However, what does make sense are the unfair and insidious policies that I have uncovered when asking why. It is time to change them.

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