Increasingly-connected technologies will capture all of our missteps and store them forever, one expert says.
Tomorrow’s presidential candidates may be groomed from childbirth to avoid gaffes and missteps that increasingly-connected technologies could record and archive forever.
In a talk at the QTS Information Security and Compliance Forum in Washington, D.C., last week, hacker-turned-security consultant Jeff Moss described a dystopian future where cheap data storage and a growing litany of Internet-connected devices – called the Internet of Things – converge to create permanent data trails for nearly every human being.
“When I was younger, it was really expensive to store stuff,” said Moss, now 41. “But now, storage is free so therefore everything is recorded forever. I’m curious on a societal level, what does that do if you’re running for president one day and they have everything forever?”
He speculated that future presidential candidates would have to be “managed from the moment you were born, so there is no data trail.”
Moss said precursors for this “doom and gloom” scenario already exist in today’s age of Web-connected toasters. Nearly 328 million new devices connect to the Internet every month and more than 50 billion may be connected by the decade’s end.
Social media applications like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have already ruined the careers of high-profile politicians like former congressman Anthony Weiner.
Less obvious examples of archived data could prove far more dangerous.
Leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden explain in detail how the intelligence community and telecommunications companies can record and store the content of mobile phone calls made to and from entire countries.
Devices like Stingrays already allow law enforcement agencies to trick thousands of unsuspecting users’ phones to connect to them – and download the content of their calls and text messages. They could become more prevalent and advanced, or even fall into the wrong hands, Moss said.
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And as sensors become increasingly more sophisticated and attach to clothes, vehicles, homes and even inside our bodies, it may become almost impossible to avoid having a “trail of data,” he argued.
“The data is already out there, and it’s not your data anymore,” Moss said. “We’re clearly all products somebody else is monetizing. People will say you don’t have to use the app, you don’t have to use the phone, but that’s a false choice. If you want to be productive in today’s society, you have to use it.”
In the future, politically sensitive and private conversations might be carried out in Faraday cages – enclosures that block electric fields – or disconnected bunkers so as to avoid the reach of sensors and surveillance through the Internet of Things.
But those will only be available to the privileged few or as Moss referred to them, the “data-haves.”
“We’ll have the data-haves and the data have-nots,” Moss said. “The data-pure people versus the people who just lived their lives and had it all recorded.”