Due to an unfortunate and unsuccessful attempt at multitasking, I recently had to get a new smartphone. It’s the same brand and operating system as my previous device. But, I began to notice some differences – surprising ones at that.
One morning my phone alerted me that my drive time to work was normal. Curious, I opened this alert. Sure enough, there was a blue line mapping the exact route I took to work each morning. What in the heck? Not long after, I got another alert asking me if I wanted to mark a bar/restaurant as a favorite spot. Okay, so maybe I went there more than once in a 30-day period, but this is too much. Are they tracking me everywhere I go? Further, I didn’t do anything to initiate this destination marking. I didn’t visit this restaurant’s webpage, like them on a social media site, or anything else. This is just purely driven by the GPS in my phone. I feel like a delivery truck.
Granted, I am not overly concerned about this. It’s not like I am visiting the Kitten Ranch or anything like that. And, if you think it’s odd that my browsing history indicates that I settled a debate that the actor on the Big Bang Theory is the same actor who played the son in Christmas Vacation, then I’m guilty as charged. However, this led me to ponder the broader implications. If I am being tracked like this, then everyone living outside a bunker and not lining their hats with tinfoil is being tracked like this. Just how is all this Big Data being used? And, thinking as an I/O Psychologist (or someone with tinfoil in his hat), how could it be abused?
If say, a drive-by shooting was perpetrated at an intersection near me at 8:15 AM in the morning, could the authorities subpoena this tracking information and consider me a suspect (or witness)? Or, more to the point, could prospective employers begin buying this data from the myriad of data collectors collecting all this data (i.e., Google, Apple, your credit card company, or whatever App you downloaded that might be “secretly” tracking what you do, where you go, and what you buy, thanks to that small print you didn’t really read)? Would knowing my web-browsing, eating, drinking, social habits, etc. influence your hiring decisions – both positively and negatively? Someone is collecting all this data, because it has value. You’d be kidding yourself if you didn’t think someone wants to buy it/use it.
Experience leads me to believe most reputable employers would not use this information against job candidates. That is passing over people who appear to be fast-food junkies or have unusual web browsing habits. But, what about the opposite instead? What about favoring candidates who appear to exercise regularly, support a charity, and love kittens (not the Kitten Ranch)? I wonder.
Big Data love it or hate it. We’re going to hear a lot more about it.