Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Big Brother is Tracking you ...

You probably realize that in order for your cell phone to work, computers are tracking your location all the time the phone is on. (Apparently there has been a criminal case in which a defendant turned his cell phone off for awhile, and this was taken as evidence he was trying to hide.) Do you think it's creepy to have cellphone computers tracking you? Well let me give you some perspective.

About fifteen years ago (I'm not sure of the date), researchers at Xerox Parc announced they had developed a phone system that followed people around their labs. Everyone carried an ID card that was detected by monitors in the buildings, and as someone put it, "If you're walking down a hallway and a phone rings near you, you should answer it; it's for you!"

I talked to many people about thts idea of being tracked so that a phone system could find you, and almost everyone reacted the same way. It was creepy; they didn't want any computer system to know how they were spending their time; it wasn't worth the loss of privacy to be able to get your phone calls.

That was then; the cellphone network is now. (For that matter, what the cellphone network does, is not quite the same as what Xerox Parc's computers were doing.) But why have our attidudes changed so much?

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