Smile, you’re on camera


Photo credit: Dongyoung Won

Even if someone personally doesn’t interact much with technology, they are still in its presence. Studies show that the average person is caught on a security camera about 75 times a day, this is done by over 245 million surveillance cameras around the world.

While cameras have been cheap enough for most to afford for many years, it’s only been in the past decade that they’ve become truly pervasive in our lives.

Public privacy has been in decline, but being able to walk the streets in total privacy isn’t the expectation and isn’t that big of a deal. What really matters is how privacy behind closed doors and on the internet is decreasing.

Our ability to experience true privacy will diminish and eventually will be gone in the near future. This is a terrifying prospect and should be a significant cause of concern for anyone using any type of technology.

With an increasing number of internet-connected devices being used, 22.9 billion are estimated to be circulating around the world today. Some predict 50 billion internet of things devices will be circulating by 2020. Each of these internet of things devices sends or receives information that it collects from around the world, meaning more and more of the world is being mapped.

Between the incredible amount of cameras and the amassing number of the internet of things devices, there is a shrinking portion of the livable world that is free of electronic observation.

The technology that lives alongside the average American knows a lot about them. The Nest Smart Thermostat knows when homeowners are home, cars with GPS know their location and any camera with facial recognition software can easily identify someone.

Smartphones hold an incredible amount of a user’s personal information. Between banking, messaging and internet searches, phones in the average American’s pocket have information owners wouldn’t want many people to see. The reality is that the average smartphone user doesn’t have a clue how to protect their private data.

All of the largest technology companies have been making significant efforts to secure the privacy of personal devices, apps and internet sites. Regardless of what these companies do, there are future problems of quantum computing.

Quantum computers are coming, and they are going to be so incredibly fast that the way data is made secure now won’t be effective anymore. Today’s encryption standards will be trivial for quantum computers to decrypt.

This means as of now, any personal information held on any devices won’t be safe in the long run. This potentially huge blow to privacy is on the horizon and needs to be considered by the public soon.

The ability to communicate in private, to speak freely without judgment of peers or being able to create in privacy without ideas being stolen are all perks of privacy. All of these things have some negatives that come with them, but their advantages are worth the bad they can bring.

The dystopian future that a privacy-void world would bring is a terrifying thought. With someone always watching, the ability to relax and be comfortable would be gone. It is important that people start looking into their own privacy and how to best protect it, investing time and money to protect their information and personal space.

Evan Roberts can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.