What always beats privacy?

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loyalty cardsFor years, scientists, media, politicians and public citizens—hell, pretty much everybody—has been cautioning screaming about the pervasive and invasive tendencies of the digital revolution, its inexorable collection of data related to every aspect of our lives, the erosion of personal privacy and the eventual collapse of civilization that will result.  Yet, when laws and regulations are proposed to rein in this collection of data and loss of privacy, they are always delayed, watered down or struck down… and often by the very people who decry the loss of privacy in the first place.

Why is it that people who are so concerned about their personal privacy can’t seem to prevent others from getting their data?  Because that’s not what we really want. Continue reading

Security: Encryption, A.I. and drones (Oh my!)

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data securitydata securityPersonal security has taken a number of recent hits, most notably with the reports of recent hacking into the databases of Target, Home Depot and other national retailers. Financial institutions are finally concluding that the U.S. needs to start using chip-embedded credit cards to better protect their funds and identities.

On the heels of that, the iPhone 6 has been released with an encryption system that (supposedly) no government or agency can break, keeping anything stored therein private from prying eyes.  On one hand, law enforcement agencies are complaining that this will only make their jobs more difficult.  On the other, agencies are realizing this makes their operatives’ data better protected.  And, of course, private individuals like the idea of being able to secure all of their data, allowing them to, as law enforcement puts it, “place themselves beyond the law.”

But as secrets become easier to keep, we run the risk of ne’er-do-wells attacking us more often, targeting our institutions, our money, and even our lives, using the same security measures we rely on.  Does my need for privacy include allowing a terrorist an easier time destroying my plane?  Is the collection of internet porn on my cellphone so important that we should also allow foreign agents to store their collection of bomb making manuals and list of suppliers on their cellphones?   Do we have to allow people to keep whatever secrets they have, only to examine them within an inch of their lives every time they approach a public place?  Continue reading

Technophobia: A resolution

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Google GlassAn article I read recently described the outright animosity experienced by a reporter on a long-term evaluation of Google Glass.  I learned a new word from the article, one directed (openly) at the author: Glasshole.  The article was shared with me on Facebook by a friend, who made reference of another word I’d just learned: Bluedouche (someone who wears a bluetooth earpiece in the presence of other people, whether they are actually on a phone conversation or not).  I’ll bet you that at the turn of the 20th century, people weren’t being called names by showing up at parties with timepieces strapped to their wrists.

It served to remind me—as if I needed reminding—that a lot of people are still distrustful, distracted and outright frightened of technology.  Still.  In 2014. Continue reading

PRISM and public overreaction

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NSA sealThe news of the past week has been filled with the revelation by an ex-CIA employee of the project called PRISM, in which the government has unfettered access to Americans’ phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, etc, in order to catch threats to national security.

As I suggested in a previous post, Americans have short memories.  Even this close to the Boston Marathon bombing, after which we were treated to the sight of the Tsarnevs killed or captured by police and federal authorities, to the standing ovations of Boston citizens… those same citizens now cry “Big Brother!” and cite privacy issues in our government’s monitoring our communications. Continue reading

Americans applaud better security

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Police are applauded after Tsarnaev is capturedLast week’s nightmare in Boston makes for an interesting argument about the state of security in the United States at the moment, and the value in improving that security for all American citizens.  Though it’s hard to say the bombing at the Boston Marathon wouldn’t have happened if security had been tighter, it is easy to say it would have been significantly more difficult to have happened… that the perpetrators would have been likely captured or killed sooner… and that the American public is behind law enforcement when it comes to protecting our skins.  Continue reading

Drones in the USA: Should we worry?

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surveillance droneThe use of flying surveillance drones is beginning to move from the battlefield to our domestic shores.  Not surprisingly, it is stirring up plenty of controversy.

Some of the concern reflects the present use of drones in battle areas.  Equipped with sophisticated surveillance equipment and lethal munitions, military drones are sent on reconnaissance and surgical kill missions against military targets, leaders and terrorists.  Which all sounds fine in a battle situation (even if they still result in some collateral damage); but what about in the USA?  Some citizens are concerned that Americans in the US would be singled out as targets for military-grade drones to attack, and they question whether an American citizen determined to be a threat against other Americans should be surgically killed on American soil.

Okay… that’s not entirely true.  The real concern American citizens have is that our government, not being infallible, will be told by some anonymous or insane source that one of us law-abiding citizens is a terrorist; and that the government, not questioning or investigating said information, will fire off a drone to take us out on our way to Burger King. Continue reading

Biometrics are in our future

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vein scanThough many have doubts that biometric technology will become the prevailing ID technology of the future, replacing passwords and PIN numbers… it’s already being rolled out.  In some places, it’s been active for a decade.

Palm vein ID technology, a system most Americans are not yet familiar with, has been gaining in usage and popularity abroad, and now beginning to reach domestic shores.  Palm vein technology uses an infrared scanner to identify the veins inside one’s hand, compare it to a complex algorithm of data points, and okay (or decline) the user.  The system has been tested extensively, demonstrating a .0001% error rate in over 75,000 user tests.  (More info here and here.) Continue reading

Developing the future of Sarcology

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Steven Lyle Jordan, author and futurist

Steven Lyle Jordan

I always develop most of a novel’s setting before I start writing it, and allow the writing process to flesh out a few cool details along the way.  As I’m currently hip-deep in my next novel, currently known by the project name of Sarcology, I’ve written most of those fine details, and find myself working in an environment that I can picture in my mind as if I’ve actually just returned from visiting there.  So I thought I would spell out a few details, to prepare you for the world of my upcoming novel. Continue reading