Tag Archives: Personal data

Is it Time for the ‘SuperApp’?

If our privacy is going out of the window anyway, let’s go the whole hog!  Why let the Big Data/Internet of Things future be a plethora of individual apps/processes when it could be just a simple ‘global identity’ for each of us? [‘tongue-in-cheek mode’ enabled]

Let’s concoct a future scenario (extended from a passage in the book) to work with … You’re out for an urban stroll.  You buy a bottle of orange juice along your way, and drink it as you’re walking.  Half a mile down the road, you throw the empty bottle in a bin.  Not that inspiring?  OK, let’s IoT/big data it up a bit …

Your exercise is being monitored as you walk.  When you buy the bottle, the cost is automatically debited from your bank account.  Also the juice’s nutritional information is fed into your fitness tracker along with your steps.  At the same time, the juice/bottle’s carbon penalty is added to your personal carbon footprint.  If you dispose of the empty bottle in an approved recycling bin, some of that carbon penalty is credited back to you.  The balance is your carbon tax to pay, although this is mitigated by an adjustment against your health tax: calculated from your fitness tracker’s juice and steps data.  The net cost is also taken directly from your bank.

So, how might that all work?

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The ‘Prof on a Train’ Game

The Shazam for People discussion revisited as an article, ‘Identity Voyeurism‘, in September 2015’s British Computer Society (BCS) IT Now Magazine, made all the more relevant by recent breaches of personal privacy

Grout BCS IT Now Identity Voyeurism 1

There’s more than one type of identity ‘crisis’.  Conventional identity ‘theft’ is one thing but what of identity ‘voyeurism’?  How much of ‘us’ is ‘in the shop window’ anyway?  Are we in control?  What are the risks?  And where’s it heading?

The next time you’re on public transport, try playing the ‘Prof on a Train’ (PoaT) game.  (It doesn’t really have to be a train or an academic but it’s a good example to work with.)  Take a look at the person opposite you.  Armed only with your senses, intelligence, intuition and an Internet connection, how much can you find out about them?

Well, if they’re quietly dozing in the corner, unremarkably dressed, with no distinguishing features whatsoever, you’ll probably lose.  However, any activity at all or any visible clues might give you a chance.  Are they doing, reading, saying or wearing anything?  Who’s with them?  Are they easier to identify?  Where did they get on and do you know where they’re going?  Anything odd?  Here’s the basic strategy, on which PoaT is based:

They’re reading an academic paper on a certain subject (X) and you know where they got on (Y).  A quick look at the photos on the ‘Department of X’ webpage for the ‘University of Y’ might be enough.

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The ‘Real’ Internet of Things

(This post is derived from a talk given at the 2012 Wrexham Science Festival.)

There are so many different ways of describing the Internet of Things.  On the one hand, maybe it’s what the original Internet was always destined to be; on the other, it’s about as boring as it gets.  Tag just about anything and everything we can stick a label on, let them talk to each other, then turn the existing  Internet into a massive database of things that can be referenced, interconnected and used any which way we like.  Great if you really need your fridge to reorder the milk for you or the plants to water themselves but hardly inspirational.  Two features, however, give the proposed (and not yet fully considered) IoT a serious ‘Oooh!’ factor …

Firstly, the ever-increasing intelligence of the Internet will allow us to manipulate this data in new and exciting ways.  More and more, the evolving Semantic Web will be able to understand the information it’s working with and make the best use of it for our benefit.  Our personal and working lives are about to become completely automated and made easier by web intelligence.  Secondly, and potentially on the darker side, other hardware and software developments will extend the IoT’s reach.  Face-recognition, image-scanners and numerous other advanced detectors and sensors will soon mean that everything can be read, whether it’s deliberately labelled or not.  We, and everything we use or own, may soon become part of the Real Internet of Things (RIoT) and we might have to expect to be identified and traced in everything we do.  So what will the future will look like?  Are we heading for paradise or Big Brother? Continue reading