Last night, I was browsing through my Google+ stream and found something that is seriously amazing and scary at the same time. As part of the marketing and promotion for a computer game later this year, a team of computer whizzkids at Ubisoft have put together a website called We Are Data that gathers samples of the geotagged data that is out there in the public realm and map it onto real-time 3D maps of one of three cities (Berlin, Paris and London).
It is beautifully laid out with great use of colour and symbols to communicate the data available. The black background gives it a sci-fi feel but when you click on the data links that appear, it becomes frighteningly obvious that this is no fiction, this is the reality of the world we now live in. I am a social media addict, tweeting and Instagramming my life to the world, although I rarely geotag my posts which excludes me from featuring in such an experiment. But just spending some time playing with the map of London, it is apparent that many others are less location-shy!
As a fan of Spooks, I spent a fun evening, scrolling around London, picking out some of my old favourite haunts (Soho (obviously), my old workplace, my old flat) to see what was going on. I felt like Tariq in Spooks as I monitored the city from my laptop. And it was fun. But at the same time, it does make me wonder about how much information we’re putting out there about ourselves. Even with this blog, I’m sharing our personal lives with anyone who cares to happen across my musings. I tweet whenever the mood takes me, and often forget the whole world can see my conversations with some of my Twitter friends. Just today, an innocent tweet was mistaken for something with an entirely different meaning and had I not rectified the mistake may have caused unintentional upset or embarrassment.
I don’t like to be rude, negative or nasty in my communications with the world (after all there’s more than enough of that to go round without me adding to it), but with a tool such as We Are Data, how difficult would it be for someone to seek out the author of an offensive tweet using this data? There are already countless Twitter accounts trying to pull people up on racist, anti-breastfeeding, homophobic or sexist comments. Only recently, the silly tweets of a teenager came back to bite her when she was elected to serve with the Kent Police Force as a youth ambassador, demonstrating how anonymity fails when push comes to shove. With the ever expanding network of social media now supported by tools such as this, are we living dangerously close to a vigilante state, let alone a police state?
Does this scare you or excite you? I have to admit to feeling a bit of both, but *think* I am fairly careful about what I put out there (rarely having opportunities these days for drunk rants!).