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Sleepwalking Toward a Control Society? Ten Must-Know Trends



5. Ubiquitous information society and extended management of persons and objects

In the ubiquitous environment the control of users extends to the management of persons and objects. The basis for the control is created by comprehensive and more efficient data collection and management procedures which aim at reaching everyone and everywhere. Ubiquitous technologies provide tools to identify, track and monitor any given person or object and their communications and activities. (Karhula 2012b)

Identification is a core element of ubiquitous environment. Identification also means that identifying data is typically linked to all and any other data which is gathered about a certain person in the ubiquitous environment. In this setting, the amount of personalized data, which has a link to personal data, will not only increase, but multiplies and open ups more accurate views on users' data. In addition, all collected data may become permanently stored, searchable, replicable, and accessible, in ways which are beyond their control and to an invisible audience (Hamilton & Moon 2012). (Karhula 2012b)

In ubiquitous environment users become increasingly vulnerable, since there will be more identified data on their communications and activities. Big data has become a concept to indicate the multiplied amounts of data in large data warehouses. Also, ubiquitous data has already become largely as a profitable product, which can be sold for a variety of purposes. In USA for example, at least 52 federal agencies had launched, or were planning to launch at least 199 data mining projects that rely on the services and technology of commercial databases in 2006 (Etzioni 2012). (Karhula 2012b)

Due to the possible long term storage and multipurpose use of the data, person related data may have unexpected and long term impacts for users. Already reviewing ones' Google Account is a shock to many owners of the account. Every search action is stored in its memory, even though it was erased from the personal computer. More than 10 years of Internet history in one online service produces an unreasonably detailed profile of the user.

Automatic analyzes which are largely applied in a processing of ubiquitous data create even more vulnerabilities. Their practices do not forgive or forget the darker occasions during the path of life - they do not have a sense of humor either. Even mistakes or occasional or well-intended humorous information searches or scrolls on sensitive issues can bring about unpleasant surprises by appearing in their profiles, biographies or predictions of their behavior.

In ubiquitous setting person related data has impacts on users by building up suggestions, restrictions or even sanctions for them. It can also have practical consequences, since person related data can control users' access on spaces and services and regulate their activities and communications. Person related data also has wide impacts on social practices; it can define citizens' position and benefits, and practically open or close different kinds of life opportunities for them. As such, ubiquitous environment creates a basis for new kinds of mechanisms of social sorting and discrimination (Lyon 2002). (Karhula 2012b)