Is the Internet of Things Just Big Brother in Disguise?

Is the Internet of Things Just Big Brother in Disguise?

October 20

Greetings! Welcome to the second article in a series of four that talk about privacy issues.

Today’s deals with “Big Brother.” In doing research for the article, I came across some interesting things. One was that consumers are concerned that the “Internet of Things” might lead to a “Big Brother” – type surveillance. I’m not sure yet how I feel on the topic. I definitely was impressed with how my new washing machine weighs the laundry to determine how much water and time it would take to clean. However, if my washing machine emails me to let me know I am using too much soap, I might not be so happy to know I am being watched.

Daniel Gutierrez, chief data scientist for Private.me, answered the following questions I had on the subject. He is the founder of Los Angeles-based Amulet Analytics, a service division of Amulet Development Corp. His specialization is in gather data and providing predictive analytics to enhance the value of data assets.

In addition, he has authored three computer industry books on database technology, and a new title, “Introduction to Machine Learning with R” that came out this year. He also has the role of writer/moderator at Big Data Republic and All Analytics, two Big Data news sites.

Here are excerpts from his emailed responses:

StorageCraft: How did “Big Brother” come about?

Gutierrez: The rise of Big Data is predicated on the ever-increasing amount of customer intelligence being recorded and used to predict what customers want.

Pretty much every business is now moving toward increasing the value of these data assets using big data technology. On the public sector side, government is using surveillance on its citizens to a greater degree than ever before because new big data technologies provide the means.

StorageCraft: How did the concept begin?

Gutierrez: The term “Big Brother” originated in “1984,” a dystopian novel by George Orwell that was published in 1949. Through use of massive surveillance, the government would accuse its citizens of independent thinking called “thought crimes.”

StorageCraft: Has the Internet always been surveillance based, or is this relatively new, and why?

Gutierrez: Big data’s 3 V’s — volume, velocity and variety are based on relatively new technologies that have come on the scene in the last five to 10 years. The Internet provides the global delivery mechanism.

StorageCraft: Is the “Internet of Things” taking the big brother concept to the next level?

Gutierrez: IoT is a very new phenomenon, again, because new technologies — in the form of very small, embedded sensors, are allowing for data collection on a personal level.

For example, Parkinson’s Disease victims can now wear a device on their wrists that detects tremor frequency and duration and provides healthcare providers data in order to determine treatment.

Vendors in this space must be careful in their privacy policy statement to advise users of how the collected data will be used and how it will be shared.

StorageCraft: Are there benefits to “Big Brother,” or does the thought of us being watched while we surf the Internet outweigh any of that?

Gutierrez: There are many benefits to the consumer on the data being collected on their online behavior. For example, when shopping at Amazon or Netflix, recommendation systems help consumers find other items that may be to their liking. Big data isn’t just for the companies deploying this technology; it helps users get a more personalized experience.

Photo credit: kissmygrandmother via Flickr