It seems like every time technology produces some new delightful gadget like the iPod, someone else finds a way to use it to intrude on your privacy and your life. Cell phones function as a locator. Otherwise the system wouldnt know where you are. Thats great if you get lost in the woods or run off the road into a ravine and need to be found, and its also helpful in cases of crime; but how do you feel about this stealthy tracking going on during your everyday life?
In the case of the Glasgow, Scotland terrorists who tried to blow up the airport, the police found a cell phone used by one of the three men. The cell phone had a record of numbers called. One of those numbers was that of a coconspirator. Within hours the police found the registration of the car he owned, tracked his cell phone, set up a road block on the motorway and flagged him down. And he thought he was home free.
The cell phone is not an anonymous gadget. Every call is recorded, where it came from, who was called, and the duration of the call. Homeland Security people, who have a reported list of 750,000 people on their roster of potential terrorists, have access to that kind of information.
Hey, if you dont like that, did you vote for those people?
In a past column I wrote about those little gadgets that, mounted under your license plate, can record your passage through a toll gate so you can pass right through without stopping. The toll is then charged to your credit card. On the Indiana Toll Road, when the card that you picked up at the entrance is turned in at the exit, the average speed you traveled is calculated. If you were speeding, you get a ticket, along with the toll fee. Some speeding drivers take a half hour break for coffee at a rest stop just for insurance.
I once hitched a ride with a trucker whose boss had an engine hours meter installed to make sure the driver didnt just park someplace and take a nap. The driver drove the truck up against a barrier, set the brake, and left the engine running while he went into a café.
Other gadgets arent that easy to deceive. Some car rental companies have locators built into the vehicles. Its handy to find them in case they are stolen, a plus advertised by the OnStar folks. But if you rented a car for local use only and cross a state line or a national border, the record of the vehicles movements can stick you with a hefty penalty fee.
Its only a matter of time before every car is equipped with a locator that not only notes the location but records your speed. Exceed the limit and get a ticket. No patrol car needed. If you have a teenaged driver, this might be a deterrent to street racing.
It could also catch a driver who, instead of driving to the stadium or the high school dance, took a detour to lovers lane, spent three hours smooching, and never made it to the ball game.
It gets more and more like Orwells 1984, where you were watched by your television screen, or Zamyatins dystopian Russian novel, We, where everyone lived in glass houses in full view of the neighbors.
Are we ready for this? Or did technology, like the proverbial camels nose in the tent, wheedle into our lives until it took up our entire space?