The Los Angeles Times reported recently on the new Kraft Foods sample dispenser called “The iSample Experience.” Most reports are fairly benign, but I can’t help but feel a little creepy about it. To get a sample of new Jello, deli meat, or Oreos, all you have to do is to step up to the machine, allow it to make a digital scan of your face and body, swipe a barcode with your smartphone, and out pops the sample. Easy enough – but what happens to that data collected from your body and facial scan or the information from your smartphone? The company promises the machine won’t store phone numbers or personal data, but it will store metrics about what customers like based on age and gender (did I mention that the machine can tell if you’re an adult or child?)
We already know the cell phone companies (not to mention the phone makers) track where we are when we use our cell phones, Google knows everywhere we’ve been on the web, Facebook owns our photos and other personal information, credit card companies can pretty much track where we go and what we buy, and data mining companies are collecting all that information to create profiles of everything we do, plus how and why we do it.
Most people either hail it as the ongoing march of new technology, or simply the tradeoffs we make in exchange for convenience.
Call me crazy, but I can’t help but wonder what happens when a government that’s exponentially increasing regulations, size, and influence in our daily lives, decides it’s time to use that information for purposes we don’t know about or approve? A simple court order for these companies to turn over the data is probably all it will take.
At what point does our pursuit of “convenience” become a bridge too far?