Help! Give me privacy

Talking technology almost always brings us to the topic of privacy. As smart and pervasive as technology is getting, there is no wonder. At the recent PATA Technology seminar, the issue of this prized (and diminishing) commodity we call privacy was raised. On an early Tuesday morning, I was told that soon enough, while I am 35,000 feet in the air and playing Shanghai on my laptop, a message will pop up telling me that my boss has just sent me an email – she wants me to send in my column now and if I don't, I should better pick up that phone and explain my delinquency. Then I was told that with 3G technology, advertisers will have their heyday, bombarding us with product blurps and promotionals on our phones, PDAs, – geez, like everything! So you want to talk privacy? Forget it. Well, they tell us that we can "personalise" our choices, of what we want and don't want coming to us. I recently subscribed to the data office service by my telco provider so that I can start to do data transfer on my handphone and then suddenly, I get beeped every now and then with NASDAQ stock updates. Not sure if I asked for that, really – but I guess it's "included" until I say no. The default choice is always "all-inclusive" until you say no. So the onus is on you to then cancel the services you don't want. The rabid paranoia about privacy or the increasing lack of it does not just lie with me. At least one other journalist feels the same way. Writing about the new wireless tracking technology (the next-next thing, he calls it), he likens it to what we do with prisoners and endangered species – electronic tagging, that is. Call it what you may, but it is creeping right into our private spaces. A Dallas company called Sensatex LifeLink wants to market their "communal smart shirts" that monitor your vital signs and track your exact location amongst other things. Hold on – there is more. Another company is busy devising something called the "Digital Angel", a coin-sized implantable global positioning system that also has biological monitoring capabilities. Speaking of monitoring devices, I've been warned that public toilets these days are REALLY going public these days – people are known to have found tiny, microscopic cameras installed in some toilets – I shudder to think how many toilet images are being posted on websites. So don't talk to me about choices for privacy. As much a gadget freak as I am, I have no doubts the price we pay for some of the convenience (and fun) we get out of technology, will be high. Email Vera

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