This article is not about fear. This article is about common sense.
Last week, we discussed the internet of things, and how smart devices could be used to literally know more about us than we know about ourselves.
This is not some distant future dystopia we are talking about. It is already happening.
A smart device in a home called the police during a domestic violence incident.
It appears to have been a reaction by the device to the abuser yelling at his girlfriend, “Did you call the sheriffs?” The device heard “Call the sheriffs,” and did so.
A SWAT team arrived at the home and after negotiating for hours, they were able to take Barros into custody. Police tell ABC News that the man’s girlfriend was injured but did not need to visit a hospital. The couple’s daughter was safe and unharmed.
“The unexpected use of this new technology to contact emergency services has possibly helped save a life,” Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III said in a statement.
It’s hard to look at this as big brother ruining lives; after all, the guy was abusing his girlfriend in front of their daughter. Constant spying has entered the mainstream media as a good thing. Look at all the benefits of having nowhere to hide; the scum of the earth who abuse their girlfriends will be caught and locked up.
But there are a lot of crimes out there, and not all of them harm others. In fact, chances are we all break multiple laws on a daily basis. So if the government knows about every law you break, they could certainly choose to overlook them. If they also know however that you legally reduced your taxes to almost nothing, or that you have a legal foreign bank account, well then maybe they have some incentive to snag you.
Al Capone was never arrested for murder, racketeering, or selling alcohol. He was arrested for tax evasion. If they want you, they can find a way to get you. They have been doing it since Capone’s time.
What if it had been another illicit activity that was recorded by the smart device? What if it had been a victimless crime? Would the police have come if they heard people talking about growing 25 marijuana plants in the basement?
The media will point to the “success stories” of locking up the bad guys with this technology. They will not highlight the people who are nabbed for code violations, renting out a room illegally, or hate speech.
In some ways, this problem has an easy solution; simply do not use devices that will spy on you.
But in another sense, that is not so simple. Even most cell phones these days are constantly recording your conversations. Is the only solution becoming hermits?
Are we willing and able as consumers to demand that type of privacy? Comment with your thoughts on how you have dealt with this problem in your own life.