Sunday 4 January 2015

Rock Me Gently ; Bedside fatigue and sleep tracking, Mythbusting copyright disclaimers on facebook & ..Even more facebook for you.

The big thing these days, is artificial intelligence. In short, your technological devices can help you to live easier lives by assisting you in your day to day living, based on data they gather during the course of a 'regular' slew of days or weeks. From our smartphones, to television sets, with our kitchen appliances and heating systems sitting in between, the data being harvested is kept and stored on cloud servers (and elsewhere?), to make minor suggestions on our behalf.

For example, you could be driving home from work and via your phone, tell your heating system, coffee machine and main television set to all be activited in advance of you walking through the front door. So you walk in with a freshly brewed expresso waiting, the house feeling warm and cosy and the television on your favourite channel. All just for you. Now imagine that, but with more complex permutations and combinations; that is, more people in the house, different rooms, lighting systems, food, music, and so on. It's a lot to take in.

The future is certainly here to a large degree, and the future is also now. Nintendo think so, too :-

Nintendo Building Bedside Fatigue And Sleep-Tracking Device

I must admit to being a bit disturbed and creeped out by all of this excessive 'electronic nannying', as it's creating a situation that doesn't really exist. Apart from baby monitors, which have been around for decades, the whole idea of various databases gathering and collating huge archives of information on me, without me knowing what's in them, isn't my idea of fun.  More importantly, it raises issues of ethics and privacy of data control; that is, how much of this data is being used without your consent, and where is it ultimately going.

But how secure is the connection over which all this takes place? The latter is a growing concern as there are increasing numbers of valid reports across the interwebs, as well as the traditional media channels, of devices being hacked into, with a view to just spy on the owners for 'kicks' and/or potential theft and fraudulent activities.

To give this some more context,  lets say you have a room with a digital t.v. which has a small built-in camera on the front panel. The same room, also has a music playing device with microphones to pick up commands and automatically adjust the sound projection quality according to the number of people in the room, and location etc. Finally, you have a heating and lighting system that has been programmed by your smartphone or even voice command ( or both), to alter at your will, with an ability for both to make automatic adjustments based on the number of people in the room, etc. All these devices will be connected to the internet, for ease of access to both user(s) and manufacturers, in the event of needing servicing, fault finding and fixing.

Now imagine what would happen if someone hacks into your home wi-fi network. The results could potentially be terrifying. And on the other side of this coin, the manufacturers have the data, but who else are they passing it on to? It's food for thought.

I must stress at this stage, that I'm not a paranoid type at all, yet having spent years in tech and i.t., I've always been aware of the need for better encryption moving forward in the years ahead. Once that is conquered and implementable en masse, it will drastically reduce the security breach issue which is still prevalent, and more so in some countries and areas. The only other issue to then tackle, would be how much you decide as an individual to remain connected to these devices and the implementation of a true manual override style option.

On the subject of control, with the usual regularity that is fast becoming some sort of 'pseudo-update crusade', Facebook comes into the fray :-

Facebook Mythbusting: Copyright Disclaimers

In short, if you're not sure of where or how your content on there is going with regards to it's useage and so on, then delete it. To really simplify something I've touched upon in earlier posts and articles, if you wouldn't be so comfortable saying it in the real world, then ask yourself why you're putting it up online.

How much Facebook and other social media networking tools are ultimately responsible for your online activity, is entiirely dependant upon how much you use it. Simple and idiotproof, right? But what if..

How Facebook Could End Up Controlling Everything You Watch and Read Online

At an intelligent guess, I cannot see facebook existing for another decade. There are logical and business reasons for this, which revolve around the competition not wanting to be swallowed up whole and making a more concerted effort to keep ahead of the game. This is different from keeping up with a market leader which will mean your resources will be exhausted at some point, as you cannot continue to flourish by just maintaining state at the dictates of another system; this in itself may force you to alter your core values and operational functioning, at the impediment and eventual cost of your business being able to run successfully.

Also, there's still another 6 billion users or so that  haven't yet adopted facebook as their 'go to' social media platform. Those users are ripe for other existing networks ( twitter, bebo, etc al) and of course newer social networking media platforms such as ello, which is still running in an 'ad free' state.

Whilst I love technology, which makes life not only easier, but more interesting through the ability to reach out to anyone who is literally on the other side of the world in seconds , I'm always of the mindset that the individual's right to retain control and privacy of their own data should be maintained. This paradox has become more apparent in the last few years, not just because of various spying related allegations in the media in the last 18 or so months, but also because more hacking, and more junk data is being thrown around the larger ecosystem. I've had increasing numbers of unscrupulous phonecalls asking for bank and other details in the aforementioned period, and a regular slew of SMS text messages informing me about money owed to me, which is non existant. I've checked all of it up and it's fraudulent nonsense.

The paradoxical part is that we share so much information without thinking about it, in just using the internet on a casual browsing basis. There are things you can do, like switch off cookies and clear cache, not to mention use other browsers to prevent storage of these 'digital bread crumb trails'. But that's not what's concerning me. It's the more deeper levels of data mining which occour, when using input heavy software and devices ( i.e. our browsers and gaming software), that track, trace and then offer suggestive inputs of their own. In my view, this should be allowed to be fully user customisable.

Currently to my knowledge, especially using smartphone applications ( or 'apps'), you don't have much choice but to accept all the things that are prechecked when you install the software. That means the user is not only feeding but growing the perpetual loop of information that is swirling around about them, on the internet. It isn't strictly necessary and some form of ratification and legal adjudication in the favour of the consumer, should be put into place sooner rather than later. That will require some thinking and organising on a global to local level, in order to implement successfully without it seeming like another way to covertly 'spy' on people, but I'm confident it will be done. Not just cause of the internet and a handful of dissenters, but more because everyone should have the right and the option to share as much or as little as they'd like to.

In effect, we all take what we need from the internet, everytime we're on there. Even when we're just sending an email, there's a whole smorgasboard of data we're also giving up and out, on many levels. And this increases in volume and intensity when we start surfing and browsing everything else. The choices to switch to private browsing, are there in the menu system.

But ultimately, even with good antivirus and firewall software, your own judicious approach and common sense are what will determine how much or how little data you decide to give away, together with how comfortable you are with this aspect of the web user interactive experience in this hyper connected age.

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