Space-Time-Travel Data Changing the World Now


Jeff Jonas, who is one of the world's premiere data analysis experts writes:

Mobile devices in America are generating something like 600 billion geo-spatially tagged transactions per day. Every call, text message, email and data transfer handled by your mobile device creates a transaction with your space-time coordinate (to roughly 60 meters accuracy if there are three cell towers in range), whether you have GPS or not. Got a Blackberry? Every few minutes, it sends a heartbeat, creating a transaction whether you are using the phone or not. If the device is GPS-enabled and you're using a location-based service your location is accurate to somewhere between 10 and 30 meters. Using Wi-Fi? It is accurate below 10 meters.

You know your cell provider has access to this data, but so do others. Jonas reports that they routinely sell it to third parties. Even with the data anonymoized, it's not a big step to either riangulate the data to you or even just collect information from you during a transaction links it to the real you.

I'm not writing this to scare you for your privacy--although it may to that--but simply to try to wrap my head around the shere volume of data and the ramifications of what having this kind of dta on virtually every person means. Jonas gives the following examples of how this data might be used to provide context (my word, not his) to your everyday interactions:

Tuesday afternoon your [free] Gmail account advises you that your buddy Ken is going to be 15 minutes late to the pool hall this coming Thursday, unless he leaves work 15 minutes early ... which he has only done twice in seven years. Brilliant!

Your Starbucks drink of choice (a grande vanilla soy latte in my case) is handed to you the instant you pull up, and you did not call ahead nor did they ask. Priceless!

When powerful analytics commingle space-time-travel data with tertiary data, the world we live in will fundamentally change. Organizations and citizens alike will operate with substantially more efficiency. There will be less carbon emissions, increased longevity, and fewer deaths.

Jeff goes on to list some good news/bad news couplets regarding this development. The bottom line is that we're fast entering a world where our every movement can be analyzed for purposes good, bad, commercial, or whatever.

In his book The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?, David Brin makes the assumption that the future will technically allow virutally constant surviellance of nearly everyone and then asks the pointed question: in such a future do we want to allow only select groups access to that surviellance, or everyone? He makes a brilliant case that the only way to preserve real freedom is to allow everyone access to all the data. You'd better be prepared to make that choice because the future is now.