1984 Meets 2012
A news story I was reading this morning on NPR posed a question I think most our followers are interested in; Have we become weather balloons, helping government predict different futures through the web? Ok…I lied, it posed several questions…The next being, how do we observe the world as people, as organizations, and as a general community? Has Facebook and Twitter and other online social media/news feeds taken over? Have we become predictable, traceable, and mathematical creatures? If so, who is watching? Is it better to have predictive advertising or do we want the web out of our cookie-jar?
The article, “Predicting The Future: Fantasy Or A Good Algorithm?,” was really about a company, Recorded Future, and other companies like it who use Big Data (sets of info so big that most computers and software cannot handle it), and algorithms of this information to predict the future, in a way. They now use us, the people, the community, of online bloggers, Facebookers, and Tweeters to predict the future. Looking at our company, Whipp, we track data for our clients. However, it is a bit different. We let our clients control it and it lets them know who is looking into them.It gives our clients a heads up on potential business. We use Hubspot.
While the article was interesting, it was also kind of scary. Recorded Future, according to the article, is tracking time and trying to predict outcomes from data gathered from the mass that has become our web community. They use time, everything from small conversations to big government statements and put it all in order.
The time this company gathers, is then used to ask questions. They use everything from the web, everything! The CIA’s investment arm, In-Q-Tel, and Google Ventures are the main “financial backers,” for Recorded Future, pouring millions into the company. For example, due to their software, in 2010 they predicted Yemen was headed for catastrophe.
This idea, tracking web usage is not new, just more extreme now than ever, in my mind. It makes me wonder, should we care more about privacy or protection? What do we value more as humans? As web users? I guess that was the number one questions this article posed for me. For example, other than Recorded Future, Google has been known to help track things such as flu outbreak When mass numbers of people are searching symptoms in the same locations, it sends up a red flag and can help a community better prepare. This is a good thing. Still, is it worth it?
Do we want the government to be looking into us? To me, it’s no different than the full body scanners TSA began using. When it was new, it caused an uproar. The protesters of TSA didn’t want to be searched without probable cause. It was our bodies vs our protection. Many chose their rights, many chose protection. Is data tracking the equivalent of searching our minds? As data gets more sophisticated, where do we stand? Do we appreciate targeted advertising? Protection? Predictable futures?
But think about the name…Recorded Future…Does it not make you stop and ask a few questions yourself? While I know the purpose is not to spy on everyday people, it still makes me wonder, where am I on their timeline? And what future are they recording? It feels very Big Brother like to me.