Michael Battalio


Friday, April 24, 2015

Serious conversations (part 61): Data collection and surveillance - part 2

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The sixtieth – sixty-second entries deal with data surveillance.

        Previously I described an anecdotal benefit to data mining and also the first of two problems with even benevolent data mining being with hacking into company databases being so prevalent data that can identify you can easily be obtained. I note a second problem with the collection of consumption data below.

        The second problem with something like a store card tracking you is if that knowledge somehow starts being sent to health insurance companies. Thinking like that might border on paranoia, but imagine how terrible it would be if your health insurer knew what you were eating/drinking. They would up the rates of people who drink too much soda or eat too much junk food, and the rates could change wildly from month to month. You’d be constantly in fear of what you ate. Now in the grand scheme of things that might be great for everyone else. I want people who eat unhealthy things to have to pay more into health insurance, assuming it meant that it could lower my rates, but there is no reason for the insurance companies to lower my rates because I’d have no knowledge of how they increased the rates of everyone else. More likely is that unhealthy eating would just be an excuse to raise rates for everyone. So, for me, there is no way I want the insurance company to have that kind of information. Fortunately, as far as I know there are no health insurance companies gathering that data from grocers. But the fact that it exists must make the insurers salivate for the data, and the fact that it exists opens up the potential for that kind of abuse.
        I’m more worried about tracking of opt-in online activity than some physical activity. Your ISP knows everywhere you go and everything you do on the internet. They can track every single thing you do online, and you have no physical way of stopping them if they decide to invade your privacy since all of the information is stored digitally. I’m especially worried about tracking through google or other services. We are kidding ourselves if we don’t think that google doesn’t know every single thing we’ve done online. Almost every site uses some sort of google ad network or search feature or credential. As soon as we move or travel and use the internet in a normal fashion those services know we aren’t home or have moved. I’m not saying they are doing it nefariously or that they are out to get us, but they do know what we do.

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