"...China has turned the northwestern region of Xinjiang into a vast experiment in domestic surveillance. WSJ investigated what life is like in a place where one's every move can be monitored with cutting-edge technology."
"Researchers at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed adevice that uses radio waves to detect whether someone is happy, sad, angry or excited.
The breakthrough makes it easier to accomplish what scientists have tried to do for years with machines: sense human emotions.The researchers believe tracking a person's feelings is a step toward improving their overall emotional well-being.
The technology isn't invasive [?]; it works in the background without a person having to do anything, like wearing a device. The device called EQ-Radio, which was detailed in a paper published online Tuesday, resembles a shoebox, as of now. In the future, it may shrink down and integrate with an existing computing gadget in your home.
It works by bouncing wireless signals off a person. These signals are impacted by motion, such as breathing and heartbeats. When the heart pumps blood, a force is exerted onto our bodies, and the skin vibrates ever so slightly.
After the radio waves are impacted by these vibrations, they return to the device. A computer then analyzes the signals to identify changes in heartbeat and breathing.
The researchers demonstrated their system detects emotions on par with an electrocardiogram (EKG), a common wearable device medical professionals use to monitor the human heart.
University of Wollongong technology researcher Katina Michael said it had to be the choice of individuals whether or not to adopt new technology.
Dr Michael, who is also a board member of the Australian Privacy Foundation, also feared we were entering dicey territory if we began predicting a person’s behaviour based on data.
“Just because someone has the characteristics or profile patterns that fit a particular group, it doesn’t mean ‘x’ will happen,” she said.
“A person might be functioning fine during the work day but an employer might say we can tell from physiological data that they’re suffering from depression, so we should cancel their ability drive a truck.”
She also feared bosses would easily be able “wash their hands of problems” and shift liability to their employees so as to not damage their company brand rather than tackling the underlying causes of issues like drug addiction and mental illness.
"George Orwell would be proud. Earlier this week Propublica discovered that more than 10 million Vizio televisions silently record what their owners are watching and send a live-stream of their viewing habits to a commercial company that uses it to profile them. Most disturbingly, Vizio ties this viewing information to the user’s IP address, allowing their offline interests to be used to target them with advertisements in the online world.
According to Vizio, the company uses this information to offer advertisers “highly specific viewing behavior data on a massive scale with great accuracy” thatrepresents a “revolutionary shift across all screens that brings measurability, relevancy and personalization to the consumer like never before.” Security vendor Avast published an analysis on Wednesday that dissects the data stream Vizio sends back, showing that it is essentially a low-resolution screen capture taken at regular intervals of whatever is on the screen at that moment.
Yet, for all of the uproar this discovery has caused, it is just part of a broader trend of humans being intricately profiled through the digital trails they leave. Hospitals and insurance companies are beginning to explore using public records and credit card purchase data to determine how healthy you are being in your daily life. For example, buying a pack of cigarettes at the gas station, buying donuts on the way home, stopping off at a fast food restaurant for lunch, or letting your gym membership lapse could all be reported back to your doctor and potentially used to increase your insurance rates.
“The Watch is here” touts Apple’s slogan for its wearable computer, implying that the one and only time-piece that really matters has arrived. So much for the Rolex Cosmograph and Seiko Astron when you can buy a stylish digital Apple Watch Sport, or even Apple Watch Edition crafted with 18-karat gold.
If we believe the hype, one in four Australians plan to buy a wearable device by the end of the year.
Of its many features and functions, the Apple Watch is a music player, fitness tracker, communications device, payment token and digital key. And it also tells the time. We were surprised that no one claimed that it will also help look after our kids. But not for long. There’s an app for that. So is there anything this device cannot do?
Who would have thought that the power of an internet-enabled laptop computer, mobile phone, iPod, fitness tracker, bank card and set of keys could be neatly packaged and strapped around your wrist?
And unlike other futuristic visions of hand-held communicators, the Apple Watch won’t leave you stranded in perilous situations because it’s dropped, stolen or falls out of range because it’s literally always connected to you.
This raises a key question: how will we change our behaviour based on the fact that we are walking around with a fully-fledged computer – one that sits in contact with our bodies and communicates wirelessly with machines around us without us being explicitly aware of it?
According to the marketing spiel, we’ll have a lot more convenience at our fingertips. But, in actuality, we may find ourselves reaching for the mute button, longing to be disconnected, and fed up with all the notifications interrupting us. That’s when the novelty effect wears off.
We have probably witnessed people who cannot resist the urge of pulling out their mobile phone to interact with it at the most inopportune times or who pass their idle time simply looking down at a screen.
Most do not realise they are even interacting with their personal computer devices for hours each day. The repetitive behaviour has almost become a type of tic disorder which is neurobehavioural.
We get a message, it makes us feel important. We reply and get a buzz the very next time it happens again. It’s kind of like digital ping pong. And the game can get tangible fast. The main reason this repetitive behaviour remains hidden is that the majority of smartphone users suffer from this, so it looks normal.
You can see people in public spaces immersed in virtual places. These Wi-Fi-enabled mobile contraptions can also trigger a host of internet-related addictions, whether used for gaming, answering mail, web surfing, online transactions, social media, we-chatting, or taking a tonne of photographs.
According to experts, internet addiction disorder (IAD) can ruin lives by causing neurological complications, psychological disturbances and social problems. This is not to mention the potential for accidents when people are not looking where they are going or not paying attention to what they should be doing. In short, our need to be always online and connected has become a kind of cybernarcotic drug.
Little device, big data
Very few of us are immune to this yearning for “feedback loops”, so telecommunications operators and service providers pounce on this response. Information is money. And while we are busy interacting with our device, the companies are busy pocketing big money using our big data.
In days gone by, mobile communications could tell data collectors about our identity, location, even our condition. This is not new. But the real-time access and precision of this level of granularity of data gathered is something we should be all aware of as potentially impinging on our fundamental human rights.
Because they interface directly with the human body, watches have the capacity to tell a third party much more about you than just where you’ve been and where you are likely to be going. They can:
Detect physiological characteristics like your pulse rate, heart rate, temperature which can say a lot about your home/work/life habits
Determine time, distance, speed and altitude information derived from onboard sensors
Identify which apps you are using and how and why you are using them, minute by minute
Oversee the kinds of questions you are asking via search engines and text-based messages you are sending via social media.
All in all, private corporations can glean what you are thinking, the problems you are facing, and they know your personal context. What is disturbing is that they can divulge some of your innermost personal thoughts, intentions and actions, and have evidence for the reasons we do things.
Many people immersed in the virtual world are too busy to be thinking about the very act of inputting information onto the internet. People value a life of convenience over privacy too much to be genuinely concerned what information is being logged by a company and shared with hundreds of other potential partners and affiliates.
And consumers are often oblivious to the fact that, even if they are doing nothing at all, the smart device they are carrying or wearing is creating a type of digital DNA about their uniqueness.
Today, we are asking to be monitored and are partying in the panopticon. We have fallen in love with the idea of being told about ourselves and don’t discern that we have become like prison inmates who are being tracked with electronic bracelets.
By the time we wake up to this technological trajectory, it may be all too late. Our health insurance provider might be Samsung, our telecoms provider may be Google, and our unique lifetime identifier could come from Apple. At present, these are the archetypal tech providers. But tomorrow, who knows?
And by that time, we will likely be heralding in the age of uberveillance where we posit that cellphones and wristwatches are not enough, that the human-computer interface should go deeper, penetrating the skin and into the body.
The new slogan might read “The Mark is Here”, herald the iPlant, that which gives birth to life, the one and only passport to access your forever services.
“You can’t live without it”, may soon no longer be just figurative, but a reality.