From Whence are the Dangers of Intelligence Collection on American Citizens?
The ubiquity of cell phones has made the capturing of actual behavior (versus behavior stated in surveys) a multi-billion dollar enterprise. A boon to legitimate enterprises and researchers, there are nagging questions regarding the ethics of collecting personal information solely on the basis of a (unapproachably worded) legal disclaimer. The powerful sensor package carried in our pockets may rival those of a military drone aircraft or a manufacturing robot. Further, collection and resale of sensor data in mobile devices will continue to expand as more sensors are added. A highly insightful article in the Wall Street Journal posted recently in their blog section displays a fantastic analysis, hinting at one small aspect of surreptitious consumer information gathering. There has been a significant volume of emotional arguments expressed by those concerned with the US Government’s Prism project–the law and ethics of which are well-controlled and well-understood, the individual risk of disclosure negligible, and the threat imposed by disclosure minimal. The sheer volume of information, the cost of analysis, the lack of actionable intelligence, and high degree of noise are a huge barrier to actual violation of individual liberties and in practice likely preclude the US Government spying activity on citizens. In contrast, the WSJ article above highlights a few of the major commercial collectors of consumer intelligence, the contents of which are very typically acted upon. Perhaps articles like these may do something to educate people to one reason some mobile services are free. Then consumers may choose by whom and to what degree they wish to be surveilled.