The Parrot AR Drone – Technology versus privacy, the war just escalated

I saw a video recently about a totally kickass little gadget.

It’s a quadricopter (4-rotor) drone that carries a camera, and transmits images via wi-fi to your iPhone. Oh, and the same iPhone is the control device as well. The video is streamed live via wifi – and it integrates augmented reality in the vidstream as well.

What this gives you is a remote controlled device that can get out there, roam around, pick up info on what’s happening and give it to you live. All while you sit in the comfort of your home.

Seen Surrogates? This is one step closer. When you have a machine that can get out there and, as long as the battery lasts, move around, broadcast video, pick up object-associated info, live… it’s a step away from being able to interact with the real world (right now it just watches, and watches in far greater detail than reality – that’s what AR is all about, anyway-) the potential is awesome.

As a gadget, it’s instant geekgasm.

But also raises some serious issues about privacy. It’s ultimate surveillance. How comfortable are we when there’s 3-4 of these hovering around when we’re outside – and we know they’ve identified us, called up our tweets, our addresses, our social network profiles, likes and dislikes… and in the right (or wrong) hands, your emails, credit history, criminal record…

Not to mention the sheer privacy-destroying impact of augmented-reality cameras floating around, able to fly, and untraceable to source.

Read the more detailed writeup here –


I got the name I wanted… now what?

No, it’s not a blatant self-adverisement. (See, I’m not going to mention my profile id anywhere in this post.)

Ever since Facebook launched vanity URLs, it sparked off an internal debate on the nature of privacy. We howl like Amazonian monkeys if we find our personal information’s been leaked, but how easy do we make it for this to happen?

Look at it in 2 ways –

1 – A vanity URL exists for the purpose of sharing. You don’t need to dictate a userid with 12 digits and special characters over the course of a phonecall. You minimize human error when it’s written down (on paper) and has to be copied (aside: how often does your ring-and-index fingers twitch when you copy something from paper in a subconscious responce to ctrl+c?) It exists so you can pass it around easy, giving people a straight view into your facebook profile.

2 – What do you do on facebook? Unless you’re an evolved user, you tend to experiment. Take quizzes. See which tarot card / insect / car you are, how you compare to friends. You tag photos of friends – and they of you. Did you realize that if you’re the one holding the camera, you show up in the least snaps? Conversely, when someone else hold the cam – and the rights to upload the photos – you’re a lot more likely to show up – in all your glory? Friends write on your wall, comment on your updates. Oh yes, status updates. Twitter for the non-tweeters. A direct snapshot of your mind, over the last few months. It’s an awful lot of info out there… you have no clue how much. In short – you share almost everything about yourself.

Where, exactly, are you going to put this info? On CVs? On other profiles online? Blog comments?

Yes, a vanity URL makes sense for a LinkedIn or a VisualCV. It makes sense for a sponsored property that needs to be publicized, for a celebrity’s page (same thing anyway), for a brand page.  

So – yes, it makes sense as a feature – and facebook is only too happy if you share your vanity URL around – but keep an eye on what’s happening. It’s a very easy spiral – you have an account, so you do all quizzes, updates, tags. FB announces vanity URLs, so you get one. You have a vanity URL, so you share it. You share it, so someone you’d rather not have finding your FB profile, does.

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