Culture

Are we inviting our own termination? Da da daah

We’ve all seen Terminator, right? Well, most of us. But even if you haven’t, you probably know the score – evil artificial intelligence/robots taking over and destroying the human race. It’s a plot we see replicated in The Matrix, and loads of other films and books. But it’s the future, and it’s sci-fi, so it’s great entertainment. The end.

But is it?

I’ve just been sent a batch of the latest fitness bands/trackers to try out for a magazine feature. For a start, I love shiny new things, especially in jazzy packaging. I am a magpie. And I also enjoy technology, to a certain extent. I’m happy to download an app here, an app there, and bluetooth sync so and so to the thingamybob.

So there I was, happily setting in my Misfit Shine (very easy, by the way), and after I’d inputted my sex, DOB, height, weight, given them my email address etc, I began to think (painfully slow on a Monday morning), ‘Where is all this information going?’ and ‘Is it ever going to bite me on the ass?’

Clearly, in the case of fitness trackers, they need to know your height, weight, and age in order to calculate and track your progress, weight loss, goals, etc. And to be honest, I don’t mind people knowing I’m 5 foot 6. There. I’ve said it. My height is out there. I’m less keen on people knowing my weight, but that’s a pure vanity issue. And as for my gender? I’d like to think my name, and, you know, my boobs, should indicate that (although, granted, if you’re not meeting me in person, it might be slightly harder to assess, but come on, it’s not like I’ve got a gender-neutral name like Lesley).

Individually, these snippets of information mean nothing, or, very little. But then, as I sync my device to Facebook (so that all my friends can see my smug step count…), it’s perfectly conceivable that I’ll start being targeted with ads for weight loss pills, and other ‘specific’ nonsense. I don’t pay much attention to Facebook ads, so I can cope with that.

But then you throw in all the other digital forums in which I’ve shared information – Topshop, Asos, Amazon and eBay all have my postal address and bank account details; MyFitnessPal has my food preferences; LinkedIn has my CV; Pinterest has my clothing, interior and holiday tastes and so it goes on. In that past, I’ve tracked my sleep, logged food diaries, uploaded photos of family and friends, heck, I even have online banking (something my father disapproves of greatly!).

At its most benevolent, it means Amazon can suggest some great new books for me to buy; less fun is when someone ‘catfishes’ you (e.g. someone steals your online identity for their own purposes so suddenly you’re the face of Russian constipation pills. Not that I wouldn’t rock that but I’d like to be paid for it); then you’ve got the clever hackers who steal all your money; and finally, do we have Terminator on the horizon? I know to jump from book recommendations to extermination at the hands of AI is a bit extreme, but who knows? WHO KNOWS, PEOPLE?!!!

I don’t have the answers, and I’m certainly not about to become a techno-luddite so I guess I’ll just carry on monitoring my steps (639 today and counting. I need to get off my arse!) and just shout ‘I warned you! I warned you all!’ when the robots come for us.

How about you, guys? Do you have any tips about protecting yourself digitally?

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