Did you know that this past Sunday NFL players were wearing radio-frequency identification in their shoulder pads? The RFIDs track where players are on the field, how fast they are going, and what their acceleration rate is, all in real time. Next year the NFL is hopeful that these devices will measure heart rate, temperature, and lung capacity of the player.
If you’re a football fan and are into stats you probably think this is a fantastic new leap forward in technology. But what if you had to wear an RFID to track your movements, either on the job or off? How would you feel about it then?
Or consider the latest Yankees-Red Sox beef that involves sign stealing. For over a century some baseball players have made it an art form stealing the signs the catcher gives the pitcher and then clandestinely relaying that information to the batter. This was done by good old fashioned observation and in extreme cases a pair of binoculars. It was only a matter of time before this became high tech, which purportedly it has if the allegations by the Yankees against the Red Sox are correct. The Yankees accuse the Red Sox of using video and an Apple Watch to help relay signals.
The above two stories from the sports world are lighthearted examples of how technology is crowding out personal space, but not all stories are lighthearted. I consider myself forward thinking when it comes to technology, but gnawing at the edges of my soul is a growing concern that despite the great benefits emerging technology brings, we should also be questioning vigorously how the next new thing will impact our personal privacy and freedoms.
Life is changing quickly. In the last twenty years the choice to be private or anonymous has been taken out of the hands of the individual. No matter what city street you walk, a camera is tracking your movement via CCTV. On average, on a drive to your local store you will be photographed approximately 15 different times. If you carry a cellphone your location is being pinged to the nearest cell tower, and it is likely your texts and calls are tracked and stored in data bases.
Being online is a whole other matter. Without any compensation, your purchase preferences and online viewing habits are bought and sold to and by companies you never heard of, for pennies. Your medical records and credit card information is stored in the cloud, and you have given consent for others to access by agreeing to the terms and conditions for being online. Even if you’re a hermit and have gone out of your way to disconnect from society, the Googles of the world will post a picture of your home for everyone to view along with directions of how to get there.
All of this begs a philosophic question, can one still be free if being monitored 24/7?
It isn’t just privacy that has gone the way of the dinosaur, but in the name of the greater good and efficiency, technology is steamrolling freedoms we take for granted. Already the big internet media conglomerates are developing algorithms to determine in real time what speech will and won’t be acceptable for you to express online. And when driverless cars soon become a reality, there will come a point that those cars and cars being driven by humans won’t be able to share the highways due to safety concerns. When that happens, who do you think is going to have to get off the roads? All this and I haven’t even touched on how artificial intelligence will impact future generations’ ability and opportunity to make decisions.
In expressing my concerns about technology’s impact on privacy, I realize I’m in the minority. After all, from Facebook to Twitter to Snapchat, it is obvious that billions of people have gleefully and voluntarily surrendered vestiges of their personal life to the public domain. The people have spoken, and it isn’t even close. Whatever privacy and freedom we once had, or stand to lose, is worth it to them for the benefit technology brings.
It is clear we have given away privacy for both convenience and security. But as Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Emerging technology is a terrific tool but we should start demanding it work to enhance our privacy and freedoms and not against them.
Matthew Kastel is a 25-year veteran of working as an executive in the world of sports, including professional teams, organizations, and some of the largest vendors in the industry. Matt has also written two novels and teaches and lectures at universities on the business of sports. For more information you can visit his website at thirdstrikeproductions.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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