Connecting the Dots

I had a boss for a while who, prior to being my boss, was a big muckity-muck in the Department of Motor Vehicles. He was chit chatting near my cubicle with another boss-level person one day about the information culled by the DMV about individuals.  He was saying back when he was muckity-muck the DMV did collect a wide variety of sensitive information on an individual but the way that it was stored would made it too laborious and not worthwhile to go through and try to match up the different records on a single person, so that was how “confidentiality” or “privacy” was preserved.  Nowadays, he was saying, it was relatively easy to match up. 

I was reminded of his comments recently when someone responded to a New York Times blog post I put up on social media about how there are new apps that can anticipate your needs in every day life.  My friend noted that these apps are for the most part not capturing data that was previously uncapturable, and she was right. The weather, traffic patterns, your commute - all of that information has been available for years and years-- but in separate locations, systems and formats. Again, in the past it would have been too laborious to try and match it all up for a single person.

As you can see there are two sides to this story -- the end result at the DMV was that there had to be created some somewhat artificial “walls” built up to preserve privacy.  On the other hand, we might like an app that tells us that the weather has caused a backup on the I - 87 northbound at the Twin Bridges and there will be an approximately 12 minute delay going through that area.  

Connecting the dots has its advantages but comes with some pretty heavy-duty ramifications.

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