If Australians can go from having no form of digital mobile technology 20 years ago, to now carrying a audio recording, GPS and filming device 24 hours a day and not being able to live without it, what is stopping someone from implementing a system that is so convenient, cheap and accessible that users cannot help but have their identity tracked. Wait a sec… is that not the mobile phone and isn’t tracking already occurring?
Although phones are already monitoring humans, the Australian Government has not yet gone as far as China to explicitly begin tracking people in the population and giving them a social score. Theorists like Tufekci argue that this sharing of information that used to be classified as private, has led to a diminished in the public sphere, as aggregated data gives companies the ability to track you: Where you go, age, gender, sexual orientation, beliefs, relationships, financial status, happiness.
“The public sphere is envisioned by Habermas (1989) as the location and place in which rational arguments about matters concerning the public, especially regarding issues of governance and the civics can take place, freed from constraints of status and identity.”
So why are we giving organisations greater control over our information? Perhaps a promise that one will no longer feel lonely in this “more connected” earth, or one will feel safer allowing parents to feel less angst. However the effects of greater emotional security may be more far reaching – For instance, it may come to a point where people won’t be able to buy food without logging in and having your ‘social score’ evaluated first.
Although Amazon Go does not rank people on social status, they have developed a new concept where one can download their app, scan it to walk into their store, grab whatever they want and leave without having to go through a cash register. As the store has a multitude of cameras throughout as well as weights under the products to monitor what has been taken, the store can automatically charge your account once you have left, and allows you to view a receipt through the app.
So if you’re worried about Woolies Rewards tracking your shopping habits (and more importantly what they do with this data – maybe if they sold information that you binged on a few choccy bars last week to the your health insurance provider) Amazon Go, and stores just like it, will be the next big thing making this technology almost inescapable.
As claimed by Tufekci below:
“This data provides significantly more individualized profiling and modeling, much greater data depth, and can be collected in an invisible, latent manner and delivered individually.”
Aggregated data gives marketers, governments and those in control an explicit picture of what their consumers look like and how they can not only sell them greater amounts of goods, but also monitor their accessibility in the public sphere.