Electronic devices generate data endlessly. It is both the origin of all of their operations and a result of those efforts. As a matter of course, computers are designed to maintain comprehensive logs of their actions. They are able to gather and store information that is well outside the scope of your awareness.
For example, the word processor you use saves all of your work, from drafts to revised versions of what you’ve written. Your word processor will store the most recent version as soon as you click “save,” but it will keep all previous versions on the hard disc until it is determined that they are no longer required. Your document will be saved at regular times; for example, Microsoft Word saves mine once every twenty minutes. Word also remembers who opened the file for the very first time and, in almost all circumstances, who made revisions to the document.
When you use the internet, you give out additional information about yourself, such as your search history, the advertisements that you click on, and the words that you enter into websites. Your personal computer, the websites you visit, and the other machines connected to the network are all sources of data. Every time you visit a website, the browser on your computer, as well as the operating system, any installed programmes, and any enabled addons, send information about your computer to the website. In most cases, this information is sufficient to identify your machine as a distinct individual.
E-mail, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, WhatsApp, and whatever else is trending at the moment are all frequent methods that individuals keep in touch with their friends, family members, coworkers, and even complete strangers. The generation of data is an unavoidable byproduct of such highly advanced socialising. These networks not only make the flow of information easier, but they also monitor your social relationships and keep track of who you are connected to.
Even if you don’t realise it at the time, something as simple as going for a walk outside can yield valuable information.
Your phone will be able to triangulate its location when it is within range of multiple cell towers because it will use the information from those towers.
Even if your cellular service provider couldn’t care less about your location, it still needs to be aware of it in order to send incoming calls to the correct destination.
When a phone is used, additional information is produced, such as the phone numbers that are dialled and received, the text messages that are sent and received, the length of a call, and so on. Because a smartphone is really a minicomputer, each and every one of the applications that you have installed on it will produce data whenever you use them (and sometimes even when they are not). You will be able to determine your location with more precision if you use the GPS receiver that is built into your mobile device rather than relying solely on the assistance of the cell tower. Cell towers can pinpoint your location to within approximately 2,000 feet, while the GPS in your smartphone can pinpoint your location to within 16–27 feet.
When you buy something at a store, your contribution to a more comprehensive data collection is recorded. The cash register is actually a computer, and it maintains a record of the items you purchased as well as the time and date that you made the purchase. The information is transmitted immediately to the computer system that is utilised by the store. Your credit card or debit card information will be associated with the transaction, unless you paid with cash. Cash transactions do not leave a paper trail. This information is also sent to the credit card company, and it is partially reflected in the bill that you receive each month.
In the case that there is shoplifting or any other type of fraudulent activity, the store may have security cameras set up to record the relevant activities. When you utilise an automated teller machine, you are being recorded by a second camera. The streets, sidewalks, and other public areas are being monitored by an increasing number of cameras, which can be seen outside in greater numbers.
When you enter a vehicle, you are immediately transformed into a data generator. These days, vehicles are equipped with numerous computers that are able to monitor a driver’s speed, pedal pressure, steering wheel position, and various other driving-related data. In the event of an accident, the vast majority of this information will be automatically recorded by a black box recorder, which can then be utilised to establish what went wrong. There is also a computer embedded in each tyre that collects data on the pressure. When you bring your vehicle in for maintenance, the mechanic will promptly look through all of that information in an effort to determine what the issue is as soon as possible. It is possible for a self-driving vehicle to produce one gigabit of data every single second.
Taking a picture will immediately transport you back to the beginning of the experience. Digital photos contain a variety of embedded pieces of information, including the date, time, and location (yes, many cameras have GPS) at which the shot was taken, as well as general information about the camera, lens, and settings, and a unique identification number for the camera. After a picture has been uploaded to a website, it is normal practise for the metadata associated with the image to remain there.
This was not always the case in the past. We were able to learn about anything back in the days of print media, which included newspapers, radio, and television. There was no need for any written documentation of the events that took place. These days, we connect to the various media outlets that we enjoy through the Internet. We have moved away from having conversations with people in person and over the phone and have shifted to communicating with them through texting and electronic mail instead. We now pay with credit cards and the internet rather than cash when we make purchases in physical stores. In the past, coins could be used to pay for things like toll booths, subway turnstiles, and parking metres. These days, we make our purchases through automatic payment systems such as EZPass, which are linked to our credit cards and licence plate numbers. In the past, cash was the only accepted form of payment for taxi rides. After that, we switched to using credit cards rather than cash for our transactions. These days, we use applications on our smartphones, such as Uber and Lyft, to call for cabs. These apps maintain data logs of the route, detailing where the ride started and where it ended. Computers are now present in almost every facet of our social and economic lives, with a few significant exceptions. The exclusions are becoming increasingly rare.
After it developed a fault, the control unit of my refrigerator needed to be replaced the previous year by a technician. It finally occurred to me that the computer in the refrigerator is not a refrigerator that also has a computer; rather, the computer is responsible for keeping the temperature inside the refrigerator at a chilly level. It appears as though a computer is gradually taking the place of every physical object in the world. Your mobile phone can be thought of as a portable personal computer. You are effectively operating a mobile computer that can move on its own and carry out various functions for you as you drive. The lasagna that you just baked was generated by a computer, which accurately describes the nature of your oven.
To put it another way, the camera that you use can be thought of as a form of computer. We now frequently implant microchips into our animals, including our livestock and our pets; my kitty companion is essentially a computer that lazes around all day in the sun.
Embedded computers are appearing in an increasing number of Internet-enabled products. In 2014, Google paid close to $3 billion to acquire Nest, a company that designs and manufactures a thermostat that is connected to the Internet. The smart thermostat is able to respond to changes in the electrical grid in addition to learning your patterns and adjusting itself accordingly. However, it does not only record the amount of energy you use; it also keeps a log of the temperature and lighting conditions inside as well as any motion that is detected in the surrounding area. You might have an intelligent refrigerator that can alert you when food has gone bad and an intelligent air conditioner that can adjust to your preferences and reduce the amount of money you spend on your monthly utility bills. Nest already sells a smart smoke and CO detector, and the company has plans to introduce a whole range of additional home sensors in the near future. More are on the way. There are a great number of other companies that are also producing innovative home appliances.
All of this is necessary if we want to build an intelligent power system that can reduce the amount of energy that is used as well as pollution levels. We have started keeping track of and analysing a wide variety of body indicators in an effort to provide better care for ourselves. The wearer of a fitness tracker such as a Fitbit or Jawbone is able to record their motions both while awake and while asleep thanks to the device. After collecting this information, one can analyse the wearer’s activity levels as well as their resting habits. It is able to tell when you are engaging in sexual activity. It will be possible for the device to learn even more about you if you provide it with more information about yourself, such as your weight and nutrition. The information that you supply is, as expected, available to the general public.
On the market nowadays, you can find an increasing number of medical devices that are connected to the internet and have the capability to capture and send a wide variety of biometric data. Technologies that continuously monitor our physiological data, emotional state, and cognitive fu*nction are either already available or will be available in the near future. Motion sensors that are exceptionally sensitive can also be found in smartphones that are now on the market. As the cost of conducting DNA sequencing becomes more affordable, an increasing number of people are banding together to compile and analyse our own genetic data. Companies such as 23andMe collect genomic data from their customers in the aim of locating disease-causing genes. If this is successful, it will pave the path for the creation of innovative and potentially lucrative medicines. It is possible that insurance firms will one day purchase their data to use in decision-making, and discussions are also taking place regarding targeted marketing.
The practise of lifelogging, also known as the consistent recording of individual data, is possibly the most extreme example of the trend toward “data-generating self” that is currently prevalent. You already have the ability to download lifelogging apps to your smartphone, which monitor everything you do while using it, from chatting with friends to playing games to watching movies. These apps keep track of everything you do. The future of lifelogging, on the other hand, will be considerably more technologically advanced than this. It is planned to include a video recording in the not-too-distant future. Google Glass is the first wearable gadget to have this kind of potential, but other companies are quickly catching up.
The items on the previous list are examples of things that are connected to the Internet. Sensors will be dispersed across the environment to gather data on the levels of pollutants. A prudent financial step would be to make an investment in a streamlined inventory and control system.
Why not install internet-capable computers in everything from cities to toothbrushes to light bulbs to pill bottles to sidewalk plazas and clothing? It is anticipated that there would be approximately 10 billion different devices capable of connecting to the internet. That is a significant increase compared to the existing population of the world, which, according to some estimates I’ve read, is expected to reach 30 billion by the year 2020. In spite of the fact that there is a lot of excitement surrounding the topic, it is still not apparent which applications will be successful and which will be failures. There is one thing that we know for certain, and that is that each of them will provide information. Soon, inanimate objects all around the world will be equipped with sensors so that they can serve as the eyes and ears of the Internet.
All of this linkage has significant repercussions for individuals’ right to personal privacy. In addition to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, the broad adoption of smart home gadgets would also provide useful insights about the daily routines and patterns of people’s behaviours. “Smart” lighting can collect data on the patterns of pedestrian activity and provide this information. Coming soon are cameras that are more advanced, more small, and easier to carry around with you. By flying a blimp above Washington, District of Columbia, and Baltimore in 2015, Raytheon intends to conduct a feasibility test to see whether it is possible to track “targets” (presumably automobiles) on land, sea, and air.
Because of this, the average day in our life consists of hundreds, and soon thousands, of encounters with computers. Every single one of those machines contributes to the creation of information. There isn’t a lot of the obviously juicy type, like what we ate for dinner, our resting heart rate when we were out for our nightly jog, or the contents of our most recent love letter. Instead, a significant portion of it is comprised of metadata, a distinct category of data. This information pertains to other information, such as the data that is utilised or produced by a computer system. Data in a system for sending and receiving text messages is comprised of the actual messages, whereas metadata refers to additional information about the messages, such as who sent and received them, as well as the times at which they were sent and received. The information contained in an email is referred to as the “data,” whereas the sender, receiver, routing information, and message size are all considered to be “metadata.” The subject line may or may not be considered to be part of the metadata. In addition to the serial number of the camera and the GPS coordinates of the location where the photo was taken, a photograph stores both the data (the image itself) and the metadata (additional information about the shot, such as when and where it was taken and what settings were used). Data is the image itself, while metadata is additional information about the shot. At first glance, metadata might not appear to be very interesting, but if you continue reading, I’ll demonstrate why you should be interested in this topic.
In spite of this, the mountain of information that we produce is not necessarily the result of dishonesty in all cases. A significant portion of it is produced as an unavoidable by-product of computers. Regrettably, this is how today’s technology operates in its current iteration. The accumulation of data is an inevitable consequence of the digital age.
Quantity of information included:
Putting the numbers on the table. It’s likely that your laptop’s hard drive has a capacity of 500 gigabytes. It’s possible that the huge backup disc you purchased alongside it can store as much as three terabytes’ worth of information.
It’s possible that you have a storage capacity of one petabyte in your company’s network. The greater the number, the more specific the name. One yottabyte is equivalent to one thousand zettabytes, while one zettabyte is equal to one billion billion bytes. To give you a sense of how much room one exabyte of data occupies on a computer, consider that it is roughly equivalent to around 500 billion pages of text.
The total amount of our data emissions is rather significant. In 2010, people produced more information in a single day than they had produced from the beginning of time until the year 2003 combined. This is a staggering statistic. The annual volume of Internet traffic is expected to reach 76 exabytes by the year 2015.
Material is easy to disregard concerns about preserving and making use of this data since, at first glance, there appears to be an excessive amount of it to preserve, and it would be too time-consuming to look through it all to find information that is of use. However, this should not be done. Throughout the course of history, this has always been the case. In the early days of computers, a significant number of these entries, along with the metadata that was associated with them, were deleted almost immediately. It would have been an excessive waste of memory to save it. Nevertheless, the cost of computing as a whole has been constantly reducing over the course of time, which has made it possible to store and manage quantities of data that would have been impossible to handle even a decade ago. The annual cost of storing one petabyte of data on the cloud is expected to reduce to $100,000 by the year 2015, down from $1 million in 2011. Because of this, there has been a meteoric rise in the total amount of data that is maintained in storage.
You could store every tweet that has ever been sent on the hard drive in your own home.
To store the voice conversation from each and every phone call made in the United States, less than 300 petabytes of storage space, or $30 million per year, is required. A video lifelogger that records nonstop for 365 days in a year would require a storage capacity of 700 gigabytes each year. If you extrapolate it to the population of the United States, you will arrive at a yearly total of 2 exabytes at a cost of approximately $200 million. This is a significant amount of money, but it does make sense, and perhaps the price will decrease as more time passes. The construction of the massive Utah Data Center in Bluffdale by the NSA was completed in 2013. It’s the first of what will be dozens for the National Security Agency, and it’s now the third largest in the world. The particulars are a closely guarded secret, however it has been speculated that it is capable of storing 12 exabytes’ worth of data. It has cost us a total of $1.4 billion up to this point. The total amount of data that Google can keep worldwide is up to 15 exabytes.
What is true for corporations is also true for people, and I am a living example of this fact. My email archive contains messages going as far back as 1993. I like to think of the collection of e-mails I’ve amassed as an extension of my brain.
These are the recollections that stick out in my mind as being the most significant. I search through that collection nearly every week in the hopes of finding something, such as a restaurant that I visited many years ago, an article that someone told me about, or the name of someone that I met. I am always sending myself reminder e-mails, not only for tasks that need to be done when I get home, but also for things that I may desire to remember many years from now. Get a hold of that information, and I’ll reveal myself to you.
Back in the day, it was my job to ensure that every single piece of electronic mail was organised into the appropriate folder. My inbox was flooded with hundreds of messages, and I had to manually organise them into relevant folders depending on who sent them, what they were about, and what project they were tied to, among other criteria. I stopped engaging in the activity in 2006. One centralised repository has taken the role of my multiple dispersed file systems in my computer. Since 2006, I’ve found that saving and searching information is more time- and labor-efficient than organising and eliminating it.
Take the case of Max Schrems, an Austrian law student, to better understand the ramifications of all this data hoarding for individuals’ right to privacy. 2011 was the year when Schrems made his demand to Facebook to receive all of his personal information. This is a requirement under the law of the European Union (EU). After a legal battle that lasted two years, Facebook finally gave him a CD that contained a 1,200-page PDF of his complete Facebook history. This history included not only the friends and items that were on his newsfeed, but also every photo, link, and advertisement that he had ever interacted with on Facebook. Facebook does not require this volume of data, but keeping it all on file is simpler for the company to manage than determining what information may be deleted without risk.