Internet Connected Quantified Self –What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Speaking of “what could possibly go wrong” with streaming DNA sensors, John C. Havens has an interesting piece in Information Week “Dark Reading” newsletter about “A Warning for Wearables”. Aimed at corporate managers, he offers a scenario:

Death by Data
Recently appointed EVP of Social Media for his top-ten PR firm – let’s call him Tom Delancey – assumed he’d been called to see his CEO for a holiday bonus. Having secured a choice article in Fast Company describing the company’s forward-thinking approach to wearable devices and innovation, Tom assumed CEO Cheryl would be praising him for positioning the firm as a market leader to their clients. But upon closing the door to her swanky 30th floor corner office, Tom was in for quite a shock:

“You’re fired, Tom. In your Fast Company article you mentioned your innovation meetings with our biggest client happen every week on Thursdays during lunch. One of our competitors went on LinkedIn, identified everyone on your marketing team and their Twitter handles, and followed every tweet generated by their wearable devices. Using a pretty simple algorithm, they were able to correlate what the increase of people’s heart rates and other data meant in terms of their mood. Apparently during last week’s session something pretty bad happened near the end of the meeting, because everyone’s data registered a spike in negative emotion.”

Tom’s jaw dropped as his stress-sensing watch registered a massive increase in tension. He gasped as Cheryl turned her laptop on her desk so he could read an Ad Age article headline written in large type: “Delancey Debunked: Our New Client Finds the Off Switch for Quantified Employees.”

“Our new client?” asked Tom. “You mean…”

“Correct,”” Cheryl interrupted. “Our biggest client just fired our agency because you unintentionally broadcast the emotional and quantified data of your team. They didn’t have to say a word. Their data essentially said our client’s new product sucks.”


He makes a great point here.

While “qualified self” today is mostly egotistical hobbiests, if everyone is doing it, and it is streamed out through twitter like channels, then his scenario is certainly possible. This sort of data fusion is really not that difficult.

If workers all “bring your own device” to your confidential meeting, then it will be increasingly difficult to prevent leaks, deliberate or inadvertent. Every smart phone is a powerful, powerful spy device, connected to, well, everything. Uh, oh!

Even today, it would be pretty difficult to make consultants, contractors, and collaborators leave their devices at the door. How can they work without them?

Furthermore, as he suggests, with the “Internet of Things” (or even “Internet of Living Things”), the whole environment may be watching and leaking all sorts of information. Given the slipshod and obnoxious state of Internet privacy (where submitting to behavior tracking is a condition for service), the who knows who might be leaking information.

I would say, “Just say, no”, but I doubt that there is any way to actually say “no”.

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