The "Internet of Things" Tracks You from the Screen to the Sidewalk

Nate Berg muses over the shifting boundary between public and private, as technology follows us from the Internet into the physical world.

Berg summarizes the discussion that unfolds in the latest installment in a series on the computer's impact on architecture and urbanism being published by the Architectural League of New York. In Modulated Cities: Networked Spaces, Reconstituted Subjects, Helen Nissenbaum, New York University Professor of Media, Culture and Communica­tion and Computer Science, and Kazys Varnelis, of the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, trade essays on "the challenges raised by technologies in the urban realm that feed off the information we share on the internet."

On the Internet, we often willingly trade our personal information for the free content and tools that such a tradeoff makes possible. However, we are just beginning to realize the evolving relationship between personal privacy and an increasingly networked physical environment.

"Instead of sustaining the freedoms of physical space online, Nissenbaum writes, we are allowing the way we disregard privacy on the web to follow us into the physical world through RFID tracking, GPS devices, location tracking technologies, crowd-sourced identification and other technologies."

"Both Nissenbaum and Varnelis note that in the physical world, these technologies aren't always under our control, nor are there privacy policies we can choose to accept or reject."

Full Story: How the Internet Redefined Urban Space

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