Thursday, August 01, 2002

More rants on autos and privacy

Ok I went back and read some more of that article about GM wanting to put devices in its vehicles to help detect accidents and alert the authorities. (Car-tracking system raises hopes, concerns)

Grey B wrote:

"....get off the "Big Brother" trip & think about it for a minute. This will be a HUGE boon for emergency response. Anybody who's had the experience of seeing a dying person on a roadside -and waiting frantically to hear those sirens- (I've been there twice), already knows how valuable this will be. This isn't about rescuing the dead, it's about helping the injured and saving the dying in those precious minutes there's still hope. I strongly support this technology; IMO it should be standard, automatic, and FREE on all vehicles. One shouldn't have to subscribe to be ensured emergency help. Now if you still don't get it & are worried about privacy invasion, remember these: first, all vehicles will soon have "black boxes" recording your driving (like it or not), and second, if you're doing illegal or reckless things behind the wheel you should be busted anway. Finally, if you really do have a "if I die so what" outlook, then all I can say is enjoy your afterlife. It's everyone else left here injured or near death that need this to see another day."

To which I replied:

I agree with your comment regarding the automotive "black-box". It will likely happen. And frankly it wouldn't be a bad thing. I see idiots on the road every day putting OTHERS at risk because they are in some kind of hurry. NO emergency is worth putting peoples lives at risk.

However, that said, I'm not so certain these systems proposed by GM are necessary. Cell phones are SO common and cheap now days that you are very likely to have SOMEONE on the scene with one. I know this isn't always the case and there are areas where cell phones don't work well, but lets think for a moment, how are these GM systems going to communicate? Cell towers of course. GM can't afford to install their own special network for these.

Though I will admit that my cell phone wouldn't have a clue if I was in accident and call emergency services.

Privacy issues aside this is technology that will slowly seep into our everyday lives. There will be those who choose to not use it or disable it. Until the goverment tries to pass a law stating that owners cannot disable or turn off these devices will I shout against it."

The next poster is obviously tired of targeted marketing. He has some valid points, but I don't believe he has thought about the variety of benifits that could result.

Keith Waldron wrote:

"I can't believe how comfortable many people are with this kind of survielence! The world is a risky place at times, and driving is also risky, but to allow a company to track a vehicle's movements generally to respond to an vehicle accident specifically is giving too much for too little benefit. Why is it that so many people these days support the Machievellian principle of the end justifying the means?

Why doesn't GM spend more engineering efforts on crash avoidance and structural safety, or perhaps implimenting better emergency response communications systems? GM and others could refocus their efforts in more practical ways if they wanted, but then, their proposed system also allows them to collect and use data unrelated to an accident. I would suggest that the collection of data represents a real asset to GM, it is simply wrapped up in a package that the consumer will pay for. Imagine, a vast majority of the data collected will not ever be used to help save lives, it will be used for generating pattern statistics. Instead of GM having to pay to research the ways customers are using their products, they will have the customer pay more to give GM valuable information!

You get what you settle for, and I for one will not settle for increased surveillance that mostly benefits a big corporation, and only marginally benefits the customer during rare dissasterous occasions. To allow this kind of invasion of my privacy rights is like knowingly being led towards a slippery slope, like sheep being led to the slaughter..."

To which I replied:

"Consider that city and state transportation departments could make excellent use of this information to make our roadways safer and less congested. Currently they have to lay out those little counter "ropes" in certain areas. Hardly an effective method for data collection.

As stated in some earlier posts, YOU are not what is being tracked but a generalized data pattern. The intersection of 1st and Main gets a significant influx of traffic going west-bound at 5 P.M. That traffic light timing can be adjusted to help traffic flow better. With good sample data the road departments could even model the traffic flow AFTER they make their change, before it is actually implemented so as to fix any other traffic bottle-necks that may result from thier change.

If you life in the city you know this would be an exceptional benifit to everyone."

Finally this last poster brought up some very important and valid points. This isn't about privacy but a new business model. One we already are seeing in the technology sector.

Don Rupert wrote:

"I think the proposed system while being sold as a "safety" feature is in reality about collecting a monthly fee from the consumer. Hmmm, renting safety, you gotta admit it's a novel idea. The car manufactures want (so bad they can taste it) to create services that will generate continuing fees to offset the cyclic nature of car buying. (I think every corporation in the world wants the same thing lately.)

In a year or two you'll have a better service plan and for an extra $3 a month this system will notify your nearest GM dealer if anything should go wrong with the car or for routine servicing. All for your safety and convenience of course.

You can count on more "services" coming into play as the technology gets better. In fact has any one seen the commercials from GM about the cars that drive themselves? They just drove (driverless) a fleet of them coast to coast. Pretty impressive stuff. Can I see a day in the near future where you can turn the driving over to GM for say $79.95 a month? You bet I do. Hey you didn't think they were going to give it away did you?!

You know what; my existing cars are looking better everyday...

To which I replied:

"I believe you are correct. We are converting from an Industrial country into an Information country. As "product" becomes less and less important, as quality increases and prices drop (look at PCs for example) "service" becomes the focus.

For instance my company is about to stop using Dell and switch to Compaq. The computers really aren't that different, but Dells support (service) is crap. We are paying more for good service.

"How can we make your life easier and create a sustainable business model for our company?" That is the question all businesses are asking.

GM is trying to distinguish itself in todays market where the buyer is more concerned about safety than ever before. (Though for some reason they buy SUVs thinking they are safer.) GMs plan isn't as good at saving lives as many of the European automakers with thier various airbags and advanced shock absorbing frames, but it's cheap and will bring money IN as a "service".

Privacy isn't the issue. Be mad at GM for not developing a safer vehicle. After all, a driver that lives through an accident is likely to buy that brand again. If they live because of a box that called the ambulance, they'll buy another car with that "feature" (which all cars will eventually have.) and is has a better crash rating."

Ok I have one more from Lord Talon who commented on my posting (as listed in the previous blog entry). He quoted a UCLA document, but for all I know he wrote that paper himself. However it was nice to get some backing on my "village" arguement, which BTW no one argued against.

"Marc says: Privacy is not a human trait. We are tribe creatures by nature. Very few tribes through out history have had much privacy. It's normal behavior for humans to give up privacy for tribe and individual benifits.

reply from:

"Computer technology isn't bringing us into some scary new era that we can't understand. Quite the contrary, it is returning us to the old-time village where everybody knew everybody else's business. That's the normal state of people's lives -- the state that was lost as modern society and technology caused us all to be separated into cubicles. Privacy is thus a distinctly modern obsession, and an unhealthy one too."
Large organizations knowing everybody's business is not the same as "everybody" knowing everybody's business. The village metaphor suggests a degree of equality and reciprocity that does not describe individuals' relationships to the organizations that maintain databases of personal information about them. Now, some people imagine science fiction worlds in which ordinary people know as much about Equifax as Equifax knows about them. I'm not placing my bets on the emergence of such a world. And even if it existed, it would differ from an old-time village in ways too numerous to count.

That's all folks. What do you think?

No comments: