Friday, 24 May 2013

The usefulness and invasiveness of technology...

I discovered a scary and useful feature from +Google yesterday while in London. I was having dinner before heading to the fantastic Zelda Symphony concert. Now I had the concert marked on my Google Calendar, and had just used Google Maps to find the restaurant I was in. 

About an hour before the concert doors were due to open I get a notification on  my phone saying that I would need to leave at 5:42 to get to my destination (the concert) at 6:30. (Obviously this meant I had attached the convert venue to the Calendar post.)

Now I haven't to my knowledge told it to remind me at a certain time to tell me to leave for events, but we left roughly at the time it suggested and then arrived roughly at the time it predicted. (I wish Google had better integration with the public transport links in this country, as I still switched out between the TFL site and Underground Map App to double check where we were going and trying to use it in Wales just doesn't work at all.)

Now my first thought was: if it does and could connect to the local transport links and predict travel time, provide alerts etc then that would be cool, and very Tony Stark and Star Trek like. However the second thought today was the realisation that it knew where I was from the GPS, where I wanted to go, and what I was interested in due to the type of concert. Now I don't use things like FourSquare and such (although it would have been nice to 'Check In' at the concert last night) so it's all a bit new to me. And to be honest I haven't done as much investigating and usage into this type of tech yet.

Part of me is happy as it makes life easier, as long as you do the work of entering all the data in the first place... but part of me is also a little uneasy about the potential privacy risks. It's not that I particularly care about what others see I am doing and where, but I am worried about it being used badly by people with ill intent. (Part of the upbringing I had that included talks by my school and parents to avoid strangers and later on to never use real names online). But I can see how all this tracking can also be useful as a means to help if things go wrong. I instantly think of the check in's and tracking of people that is available to help alleviate worry for relatives an such when large scale events like floods and tornadoes hit.

All in all it's exciting to have this digital assistant sidekick (I keep thinking K-9), but at the same time it's leaving a large breadcrumb trail that I am not entirely sure that I am happy with. (Although that might stem from spending so much of my early years trying to hide my interests from the school bullies or my location from my parents as I snuck off with friends. Which to be honest wasn't even that rebellious if you count board gaming nights around a male friends house when I was supposed to be having a sci-fi watching nights around a female friends house!)

Anyway I don't use all the tech out there to make a fully formed opinion on it all (I'm still using a paper diary to help organise my University life in conjunction with alerts from the digital one), and to be honest even the public displays are curious for me as it feels a little narcissistic in some regards. I would use this type of tech more as a means to help remember doing certain things or to organise my life, and as for broadcasting a check-in it's handy for meeting up with like minded people or making new friends. I already discovered that via hashtags and Twitter and a event I want to last year. But as a recent TED talk reminded me it is like a permanent digital tattoo, all this data, and as much as I don't have an issue to putting thoughts like this down on a blog I'm glad that I grew up in an age where the internet was very young and social media didn't exist. Unlike todays teens where everything they do will always be there if you look hard enough and no-one can escape embarrassment or the foolishness of youth.