Tag Archives: big brother is watching

That’s Not Big Brother Who’s Watching

It’s your mother.

Or at least it could be.

tileThe Curmudgeon recently ran across a new product called Tile. It’s a little gizmo (see the photo) only about 1.5”x1.5” and just 0.2” thick – about the size of a Chiclet (remember Chiclets?). It’s like a GPS locator: attach it to something and use a phone app to find whatever you’ve attached it to.

The advertising stresses the practical value of Tile: you can attach it to the kinds of things you may frequently lose or misplace, like your keys or your purse or your dog (well, you might want to attach it to the dog’s collar rather than directly to the dog), or attach it to things that may be prone to theft, like a laptop or tablet or bicycle. When you’ve lost something, you just pull up the app and if it’s nearby it gives you a map to find it. You also can have the Tile emit a sound. If the lost or misplaced item isn’t nearby you can report it “missing,” at which point any open Tile app near enough to the item to pick it up will send an automatic message to the Cloud indicating the item’s location, which will in turn automatically be transmitted to you.

TedNeeley2(And before continuing: aren’t you tired of hearing about this amorphous “cloud”? And don’t you envision it being administered by a guy who looks more than vaguely like the actor Ted Neeley?)

So there’s hope for folks who habitually misplace their tv remote or their e-reader. If The Curmudgeon had owned one of these gizmos he might still have that green Adidas gym bag full of belts he lost when he moved back in 1976. (But he’s still holding out hope the bag will resurface one day. After all, it’s only been thirty-nine years).

But it takes very little imagination to envision how Tile and other products like it – there are several – might be used in less innocent ways.

Like snooping on your kids.

You could, for example, slip one into your daughter’s purse; she’ll never notice it. Or into a school book (a place many kids would never dream of looking). Have a seventeen-year-old who just got his driver’s license? You could stick one in the glove box or under the front seat.

Or what about spying on your spouse?

A strategically placed Tile in a purse, suit pocket, briefcase, or car could help you be sure that when your man says he’s not cheating on you he’s really not cheating on youThe possibilities are…limitless.

And also a bit sad.

big brotherBut that’s technology for you: improving our lives in many ways yet potentially eroding our privacy in ways that would make Big Brother proud.

Or even creating a Big Brother out of Your Mother.

Big Brother is Alive and Living in New Jersey

As someone who grew up in a city, The Curmudgeon is familiar with the sight of trash trucks parked outside of bars in the middle of the day. Anyone who’s had such an experience has felt at least a momentary sense of outrage over the possibility that a city employee – someone being paid with their tax money – is drinking during working hours.

And never even considered that the trash workers might just be peeing during working hours (because where else can they do that?).

Apparently the state of New Jersey has such concerns as well, but instead of just sitting and stewing over these concerns, state officials are doing something about them.

They’re bugging their employees’ cell phones.

As reported recently in the Philadelphia Inquirer,

The State of New Jersey tracks more than 400 workers by bugging their phones so supervisors know when they clock in, where they are at any given moment, what route they take to get there, how fast they drive, and whether they make unauthorized stops.

big brotherState officials offer a number of explanations for bugging their workers’ state-owned cell phones – nonsense like helping them respond to emergencies, improving productivity, and reducing insurance rates – but you know this is all about lack of trust and lack of respect for their employees.

The technology for the practice comes from Verizon, the corporate personification of evil, and according to the Inquirer it’s already being used in Detroit, Chicago, and elsewhere and is being considered for use in Philadelphia – presumably, to stop those trash men from peeing in bars on the public’s dime.

Is it legal? Yes. Is it wrong? Yes again. If you can’t trust your employees, you shouldn’t continue employing them. Treat them like this and you will reap what you have sown.