August 2012 Bar Bulletin
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August 2012 Bar Bulletin

All Technological Roads Lead to Roam

By Robert W. Zierman


Roamin' has me thinking about cellular towers. And that has me thinking about how while at the same time we make an outbound call, we are tracked.

Where are you spending your summer vacation? No need to ask, you just go there and the answer will be known. The new question is: "By whom?"

In our Brave New World,1 each of us has a "virtual dossier." True, it might not be nicely tucked away in a folder, but it is there. And while "all the science, I don't understand" - just as in Elton John's "Rocket Man" - I find the prospect of having virtual dossiers following us around rather unsettling.

Tell me if you haven't experienced something like this before, too. You try out a "30-day money back guarantee" on some sort of software product and determine you don't want it. So, you cancel out and think, just as Mike Myers playing his best SNL's Linda Richman, "No big whoop." But guess what, the advert "follows you." Indeed, you start to see an advert for your aborted software download just about every time you turn on the computer.

Well, that's the situation we have now. But let's take a moment to start looking up at and then beyond the horizon. What happens when that advert shows up on an electronic billboard as you're going down a fairly lonesome stretch of highway? It wouldn't be too hard for someone to watch that ad; seek to infer from it that you might be a worthwhile target; and call ahead to a conspirator in crime. Hmm?

Now that we are on the subject of crime, what happens when a clever entrepreneur pulls together a company that is able to provide the FICO score2 equivalent of risk evaluation for convicted criminals? Regardless of the fact that these people have served their debt to society, she's doing a great job. Her product is believed to significantly reduce theft in retail shops. How? As soon as someone with a significantly high score comes into the store, the alarms go off, allowing the sales staff to stick to him like ... well, "buttah."

How about improvements to facial recognition software? Sorry to say it, but when things go sideways, you are no longer going to be a "face in a crowd."3 Same goes for voice recognition.

OK, OK, this is the plan. I am going to turn off my mobile phone and use it only for emergencies while driving down the highway at night so nobody can see my face. I shall not steal ... even a pen from my employer. And voice distortion equipment is going to be my next purchase. Alright, I can now start living again. Right?

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