Way back in 2009, I told you about the future of lifelogging — the ambient, persistent and automatic recording of your everyday life.
At the time, the idea was one of those science-fiction-like notions that would come into being sometime in the future — when lifelogging would be something that happened in the background while you commuted to your glass-dome office via jet pack.
Well, I’m back to talk about lifelogging. Except now it’s real. More than that. It can also be free and easy.
As we document and share more of where we go, what we do, who we spend time with, what we eat, what we buy, how hard we exert ourselves, and so on, we create more data that companies can and will use to evaluate our worthiness – or lack thereof – for their products, services, and opportunities. For those of us who don’t measure up compared to the rest of the population, the outcome won’t be pretty.
It will also be our own fault. Consumers are signing up to collect and share personal data at an alarming rate via sleep monitors, pedometers and activity trackers, dietary logs, brainwave monitors, grocery and restaurant loyalty cards, credit cards, Foursquare and Facebook check-ins, and photo geotagging, among other means. As insurers, lenders, and others attempt to manage risk, they will inevitably turn alternative data sources to round out the picture of each consumer applicant – in fact, they already are.
According to a sales rep for a midwest data co-location and analytics startup who asked to remain anonymous, regional hospitals, insurers, and grocery retailers are already investigating ways to work together to translate consumer purchase data into health risk profiling insights. Kevin Pledge, CEO of underwriting-technology consultancy Insight Decision Solutions told the Economist last year that he has forgone the use of supermarket loyalty-cards and begun paying cash for his burgers to avoid this very type of profiling. The same article mentions a life-settlements firm declining to purchase an insurance policy based on social media activity that contradicted the supposed poor health of the policy-holder.
These are far from the only example of companies reaching further into our personal data –consumer reports has a rundown of many others – but they should be enough to make us all rethink that package of bacon, those dozen Krispy Kremes, or those Marlboros. One day, the same analysis is likely to be applied to how often we exercise, the length and quality of sleep we get, our eating habits, and possibly even the health of our sex lives.
After reading these articles, I couldn’t help but think about George Orwell’s book 1984. Orwell’s book describes a totalitarian State where “Big Brother” is watching each and every move citizens make. He describes in his book how the main character, Winston Smith, cowers in the corner of his apartment where the camera can’t see and record what he’s doing.
I don’t see George Orwell’s 1984 coming to fruition, however. Americans especially are already willingly and with pleasure logging every activity that they do and posting it on social networks like Facebook. Want to know what your friends are up to? All you need to do is log on to Facebook and trace their footsteps from home to the gym, to the grocery, etc., throughout the day. You’ll probably even see a picture or two.
No, George Orwell’s 1984 will never come to fruition. You won’t find us cowering in the corner away from the camera. After all, it’s all about you, right? We’ll be proudly parading in front of the cameras as if we were a Hollywood movie star.