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Recently, I have been very interested in the subject of sociology and the effects and ethics of the internet, the web and social media. I have been thinking of many theories and writing notes and I have a very brief theory of the future of personal data aggregation.

Let me start off by saying Google does it brilliantly. Providing absolutely* free applications such as Google Docs, Mail, Calendar, Talk, Analytics and many more. With the addition of Android, the open source mobile operating system, they provide additional personality to their brand.

Yeah yeah yeah, about, the asterisk. By using Google, whether it be searching for something at  or using any of their apps, you give up your privacy for…. pretty much any content you provide to Google. Let me summarize by going over their privacy policy:

“When you sign up for a Google Account, we ask you for personal information. We may combine the information that you submit under your account with information from other Google services or third parties in order to provide you with a better experience and to improve the quality of our services.”

This includes: Cookies, Log information, User communications, Affiliated Google Services on other sites, Third-Party ApplicationsLocation data, Unique application number, Other sites. (all found from the privacy policy as it clearly states)

It makes sense, “to provide you with a better experience and to improve the quality of our services.” We are given a number essentially and tracked. But the free stuff is so appealing! Many business of opted out of purchasing expensive programs such as Microsoft Office and just used Google Apps.

But here is my scenario that I play in my head over and over again:

Open my eyes. Look at the clock which personalized and recommended by a computer. This computer aggregated everything about me to distil a algorithm that can tell you everything about my personality, values, goals, beliefs etc…

I notice it is time to get ready for the day. Roll out of bed and walk to the bathroom to take a shower. Since a computer knows my preferences, it sets it at exactly 104.4 degrees Fahrenheit because 104.2 is too cold and 104.6 is too warm. After I shower, I brush my teeth and use a special mouth rise because I recently was told by my dentist that I have sensitive teeth and I should use Product X. He wrote down notes on a tablet pc about this and it automatically notified a server that I am in the market for Product X .

So at the last time I was at the market, I bought it because my phone noticed I was at the supermarket and notified me that I need to buy Product X for my sensitive teeth.

Proceeding my brushing and mouth rinse. I head for my car that was previously decided based upon my income and my preferences. It was chosen for me to buy because I would prefer to own a car sooner and opt out of buying an over-priced car. So a server went through every car made and found a car that I could pay off in 3 years and gives me the best value for my dollar. I prefer a fast yet practical car. This car was also chosen because I can afford $400 monthly payments and gives me the highest performance and value. $395/month would be less optimized and $405/month is out of my price range.

What happens when possible choices that are developed on our own, are challenged by recommended choices are created with data aggregated by databases? We lose the power to decide our own fate and choosing against the recommended choices simply to make us feel we have power over our lives no longer applies because we are not ‘optimized’ to produce the best life.

To get a better idea of what I am talking about, read this Business Week article published in 2007. The author, Rob Hof, talks a lot about how Google is working to become a working A.I. search engine. He takes my idea and illustrates it quite well and examines other players such as Amazon.

The short version is: I love technology and how it allows us to be  more efficient and make better decisions. However, there needs to be a line. It is a massive trade off: completely remove humanity and thinking all together but have the most optimal life made for us.

Once this computer knows everything about me, making choices are pointless because the decision is already made by the computer.


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