Published: 22 April 2015

So you might be thinking were does this Watchdogs title feature in all of this? Well to better understand the issues we might have in the future. It’s useful to take a flight of fancy and think about the technology and how it may develop.

The game Watch Dogs is set in a future version of Chicago, were a large corporation has deployed a city wide operating system - CtOS. The reasons behind it are quite familiar, increasing crime rate, increased threat of terrorist attacks, lowering costs of city wide automation such as traffic lights, bridges, and lighting.

Unlike my drone idea the city in Watch Dogs uses traditional CCTV which is on every street. If you perform a crime the entire system detects you and follows you around leading police straight to you.

I hope the thing you take away from the last two articles is that we a really close to having systems like that described above. It will come to a point we’re the local authorities have no choice but to start looking at this kind of automation due to the ever increasing squeeze on budgets.

If you think it’s far away you might like to see this map which shows all of London’s services and tracks Tweets and other social media on the map in near real time. The Tweets even have images of individuals on. Useful? Creepy?

The cautionary tale I speak of is the company which provides the system in the game instantly has an advantage over everyone in its sphere of influence. Imagine in the UK election if the watchers could monitor the things discussed about the election in real time and make changes to improve their chosen candidates’ chances? What if they could use the dirt the system gathered about their opponents ‘accidently’ leaked into the media.

What about unauthorised access to the system giving people your current location. We know that unauthorised access goes on in the Police using the DVLA system access to give out details about individuals (which is illegal). This wouldn’t just be about your home this would give your location down to a few meters. I can think of criminal groups finding that useful for many things all of them bad.

Excluding all of those potential issues. A company which can monitor individuals at that level, has immense commercial power being able to understand their audience and how to positively influence their products. I cannot imagine a company with that level of power ever being surpassed by a competitor.

Marketers are the Watch Dogs we crave this information to make better decisions to improve our businesses. We rarely think about the problems our ever increasing wish for that information brings. A line I heard recently was “Do you feel that? That’s the weight of a trillion terabytes of information pressing down upon you!”

Will that pursuit for power enable us to build better products and provide things to improve the lives of our customers? Or will we make the mistakes of Watch Dogs and use that information for ill even inadvertently. I wish I had an answer for you put like most things only time will tell the consequences of our actions. 

Richard Brisley

Lead Server-Side Developer


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