Friday, April 04, 2008

Big Brother knows where you are!

I sometimes joke that we live in such a remote spot we are off the radar screen. That may not exactly be true. If it isn't radar it could be the cell/mobile phone. One of the interesting things that emerged from Steve Jobs' last Macworld presentation was that the iPhone and iPod Touch would shun GPS as a location device in favor of triangulation between cell phone masts.

The cell/mobile phone companies certainly know where you are roaming - try some of their traffic hot lines, for example. And emergency calls are usually spotted on the map very quickly by the police - "We're driving down the M5 just past Michael Wood Services and there is an accident on the other side of the motorway" "Yes, sir, no need to explain where you are, we have your location."

Then there's Google Earth. I bet there are a few survivalists in America wondering when their stockpiles of tanks and assorted weaponry will be found by a casual researcher using Google Earth! Luckily for them, Google Earth isn't real time. Yet.

The UK has more CCTVs than any other country. While most seem pretty harmless, the presence of number recognition cameras even extends to our local recycling center. "Welcome ABC 123 to the Poole Recycling Centre". One wonders what will happen one day to the poor council tax payer who is recognized for his total abstinence from the center.

The controversial plan to fingerprint all passengers entering and leaving Heathrow's T5 has many people up in arms, or at least in fingers. Who knows whether or not that Spanish company (BAA) will cast aside our fingerprints at the end of each day? Heck, they can't even look after our baggage properly!

It used to be said that people get lost in a big city - think of the detective novels of the 1950s and 60s - Mickey Spillane, etc. Most of their opening chapters carried some such thread. "New York, the place where a man can lose himself in the crowd. . ." Well, that's not true any more as the July 7th London bombings demonstrated.

It looks like George Orwell was right!