Tag Archives: Shazam

No More Privacy Any More? (Just putting this out there)

OK, some of this material isn’t new but I’ve been asked to edit a special (Information) journal edition on (something like) ‘Will AI, Big Data and the IoT Mean the End of Privacy?’  The plan is to circulate a ‘discussion paper’ to encourage submissions.  What follows is an early draft of that (extended from The Prof on a Train Game) so it won’t hurt to get it ‘out there’ as soon as possible.  Comments welcome below, by email, message, whatever …


The embodiment of the potential loss of privacy through a combination of AI, big data and IoT technology might be something like an integrated app capable of recognising anyone, anytime, anywhere: a sort of ‘Shazam for People‘, but one capable of returning seriously personal material about the individual.  How credible is such a system?  And what might stop it?

Introduction: A Future Scenario?

It’s 2025 or thereabouts.  You meet someone at an international conference.  Even before they’ve started to introduce themselves, your IoT augmented reality glasses have told you everything you needed to know … and a lot more you didn’t.

Jerry Gonzales. Born (02/11/1970): Glasgow, UK, dual (plus USA) citizenship; 49 years old. Married 12/12/1994 (Ellen Gonzales, nee Schwartz), divorced 08/06/2003; two daughters (Kate: 23, Sarah: 17); one son (David: 20). Previous employment: Microsoft, IBM, University of Pwllheli; current: unemployed. Health: smoker, heavy drinker, recurrent lung problems, diabetic, depression. Homeowner (previous); now public housing. Credit rating: poor (bankruptcy 10/10/2007); Insurance risk: high. Politics: Republican. etc., …,  Sport: supports Boston Red Sox and Manchester United FC. …,  Pornography: prefers straight but with mild abuse …,  etc., etc.

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Shazam for People?

When Shazam first arrived on the scene, it was pretty amazing stuff; now, we rather take it for granted.  But could the same idea soon work for people?

We know the scenario … You’re in a bar or a shop or listening to the radio or TV … or … just about anything really … and you hear a song that you either like or think you recognise or both … but you don’t know what it is.  Frustrating, isn’t it?  At least it was until music identification services such as Shazam first appeared.  After that, no worries; simply allow your mobile to listen to the music for a few seconds, search the central database and, after a few more seconds, it reports back to you with full details of the name, artist and origin.  It might even link you to a central library where you can find more of the same or possibly buy it.

Simple enough; but, might the same principle one day work for people?  It’s really not that hard to imagine …

Picture1Accessible text version of photo

Then: “Ah, but this is only the free stuff.  If you’re prepared to pay, I can tell you a lot more about him … “

It sounds like a science fiction ‘Big Brother for Everyone’ nightmare scenario.  But could it happen?  If so, how soon? Continue reading