The CEO of search giant Google has told users they can look forward to an Internet that offers them no place to hide.
“True transparency and no anonymity”, he says, is the way forward – and there’s nothing we can do to prevent it.
“There was five exabytes [five billion gigabytes] of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003,” he said. “But that much information is now created every two days, and the pace is increasing… People aren’t ready for the technology revolution that’s going to happen to them.
“In our lifetimes,” Schmidt said, “we’ll go from a small number of people having access to information, to five billion people having all the world’s knowledge in their native language.”
The bulk of that information, Schmidt explained, comes in the form of user-generated data. Every digital interaction throws up information, he said. And that information can be used to minutely analyse and predict human behaviour.
“If I look at enough of your messaging and your location, and use artificial intelligence, we can predict where you are going to go,” Schmidt said, adding unnervingly.
“Show us 14 photos of yourself and we can identify who you are. You think you don’t have 14 photos of yourself on the internet? You’ve got Facebook photos!”
Schmidt told delegates at the conference that the availability of information increased convenience, and enabled society to more effectively combat anti-social and criminal behaviour – but his talk raised some unsettling issues.
He said that addressing issues such as identity theft, for instance, required “true transparency and no anonymity”.
“In a world of asynchronous threats,” said Schmidt, “it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a [verified] name service for people. Governments will demand it.”
Schmidt’s comments come just days after hacker Samy Kamkar demonstrated a technique that used Google’s Street View Wi-fi data to identify an individual’s location remotely down to as little as nine metres.
Literally, as well as metaphorically, it seems, there’s no place left to hide.
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