While catching up with the nettime mailing list, I came across two articles that give me the creeps.
- Microsoft filed patents for a ‘consumer detector’, to let your Xbox or TV decoder detect who is watching, and if the audience is not deemed suitable, to stop playback.
- Apple received a patent that lets the police disable the smartphones of (for instance) protesters (just the camera, or even the whole phone, because ‘covert police or government operations may require complete “blackout” conditions’. A quote from this article:
Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘It’s been a fact that modern phones are in reality tracking devices that let us make calls, but the idea that awkward citizens might find their phone shut down at the behest of a Government agency is a very worrying thought and not one that fits with democratic principles.’
It fits in with Google’s earlier desire to provide “targeted TV ads” based on a profile of you. Put together, this is not too far from your TV presenting you a government-issued “Personal Service Announcement” about your opinions or behaviours.
Dear engineers, if you’re developing something, ask yourself: would this sell well to dictators like Syria’s Bashar al Assad? Is this a gadget that could feature in 1984? Who is benefiting or gaining power with this?
Maybe pause for a moment, and ask yourself if you want to help build the circumstances for a totalitarian regime (government, corporate). One day, our own government might turn into such a dictatorship…