I went to dinner with some friends in San Francisco about a week ago. In the process, I learned a little more about how our data are tracked, traded and used to solicit our time and money.
The key is that my friends used “car share” services to get to and from the restaurant. (In the past, we might have walked to a local restaurant, but “cheap and seamless” makes it very easy to “tap the app” and get a ride.)
So there are two possible reasons why I got this email from
out of the blue the Borg:
- Some remnant of the deleted Lyft App on my phone was tracking where I was going and matched my physical presence to that of the Lyft driver.
- My location was matched with a Lyft driver, which then triggered an “account update” email to me that I had never signed up for.
I think that #2 is more likely, but both options are bad in the sense that they reveal the degree to which Americans (without knowing it) and Chinese (often knowing it, but not caring) are being tracked in their daily movements. (Tracking is probably also happening in the EU, but GDPR makes that harder as well as illegal.)
How pervasive is this loss of privacy and gain in stalking? Read this article outlining how our data are collected, traded, aggregated and used to advertise to us. Then read this one on how “restaurant waiting list” apps are being used to record what we eat (digital menus), with who (location data!), and for how much (credit card bills). Finally, read this industry profile* of how a “decentralized internet” will weaken aggregation services and platforms such as Google, Facebook and Amazon that track our browsing, logins, friends, finances and so on.**
My one-handed conclusion is that companies and governments are collecting far more data on your location, friends, activities and (probably) thoughts than you will ever suspect. The panopticon is now.
Postscript: Just a few days ago, I bought a swimsuit in a used-clothing store in Southern California. When I wanted to pay, the cashier asked me for my mobile phone number. “Why? You want to call me in the Netherlands?” “No, don’t worry,” he said. So I guess that the NSA, Facebook and Amazon are going to have to wait a bit longer to know what color swim trunks I wear.
* If you want to give them your identity; for some reason, I read it without signing up.
** I was annoyed to hear Mark Zuckerberg say “Now we’re going to change Facebook’s whole mission, as a company, in order to focus on [more community and connection]” as that’s a lie. Facebook, like Google, is an advertising company that makes 90+ percent of its revenues from advertisers who pay for access to your personal and “community” data.