What information do you hand over to your electronic devices? Your location? Your fingerprints? The exact blueprint of your face? We are quick to give away our personal information in exchange for convenience, but how will this massive amount of data-sharing affect our futures?
The Pew Research Center found that since 2006, use of ever-growing social media platforms had increased nearly 14-fold. In fact, 7 out of 10 adults now report that they use at least one social media platform. Every day, an estimated 196 million Americans use social media, however, only 9% of users state that they fully trust the company to keep their information secure. So why do so many choose to willingly sacrifice their privacy, risking information breach and possible misuse of personal data?
Photo courtesy of Pew Research Center
Perhaps the ease of staying connected with family, friends, old school mates, favorite bands and brands is far too convenient in daily life to be preoccupied with loss of privacy. Afterall, more than half of Facebook users have taken a break from the platform but ultimately made the decision to return to the online social world. It seems that our society, at a glance, values communication and entertainment over privacy of information. We keep coming back for more, and this may very well lead us down a path to a fully-traceable life.
This fully traceable life is already a reality in the modern world. Although hypothetical in current American society, in 2014, China began to utilize personal information to monitor, and if necessary, ‘blacklist’ certain individuals who were deemed untrustworthy. The government employed algorithms to closely follow behavior, social media activity, purchases, and more. An excess in ‘violations’ resulted in punishments, including banning individuals from certain jobs, hotels, or preventing their ability to use public transportation. By releasing this plan, the Chinese government aimed to “..broadly shape a thick atmosphere in the entire society that keeping trust is glorious and breaking trust is disgraceful.”
Although currently isolated to Beijing, the country has stated they are working to implement a national system. Soon, they hope to have an interconnected system that can accurately track and monitor the behavior of all of China’s 1.3 billion citizens.
Tapping into social media is not the only way human behavior may be trackable. The future of fashion and clothing may very well be computerized as well. Presently, smart clothing has only scratched the surface of future possibilities. Google’s “Project Jacquard,” for example, allows you to interact with your mobile device by simply touching gesture sensitive areas on your clothing. In 2016, Ohio State University researchers began to make breakthroughs in understanding how to weave electronic components into fabrics. They are now working to incorporate this technology to make it more practical in daily life.
In the near future, our clothing may be able to transmit and receive data. This data is not necessarily limited to electronic information, but bioavailable data as well. This means every time you sweat, eat, or drink, it will be recorded by sensors and computer chips woven into your clothing. This type of technology could play a major role in the sports and medical communities, among others. However, no matter how small these computer chips are, they will produce RF waves when sending and transmitting signals. Rather than having localized exposure to these waves (like you have with a cell phone) computerized clothing will cause individuals to be exposed for as long as the article is worn. If this technology does become an integrated part of our society, it will be even more imperative to protect ourselves from the negative effects of electromagnetic waves.
Although highly intelligent algorithms and smart clothing can be extremely helpful in some cases, new technology brings potential consequences. We must be aware of what information we put online, and which devices we adopt into our daily routines. Increasing the amount of transmitting and receiving signals further exposes the general public to potential mental and physical harm. It is becoming increasingly important to understand the frequencies exist around us, and how to prevent their effects on the human body.