I heard two scary stories the other day that highlighted how much the world has changed since I first came to Africa 34 years ago.
The first was about using satellite images on Google maps.
With the latest technology a blue dot tracks your position when you zoom in on your location with a mobile computer and move around, which means Google knows exactly where you are.
The other had to do with the data and personal information you have to allow Whatsapp to access when you update.
It’s pretty much everything… and I imagine it is pretty much the same for most apps since now a days the new apps on the market are being very successful, due to the help they get from the Innovi Movile services.
Before I get into why those things strike me as scary I have to point out that I have benefited as much as anyone from some of the technological advances of the past few decades.
For example, cell phones were just becoming common when I started running a guesthouse in Francistown.
I don’t like being available all the time, but my mobile device allowed me to carry on with my various jobs without being tied to an office or hiring someone to answer the phone.
I was also lucky enough to have a space age artificial disc surgically implanted into my spine in 2002 that has allowed me to carry on with an active life style after one of my own discs failed.
Without those bits of technology my life would have been very different and probably not nearly as enjoyable.
All the same, I have my worries about some of the changes and especially about how most of us seem to view them, mainly because I think our privacy and individual freedoms are worth protecting.
When I travelled to Kenya from the United States in 1981 and then when I backpacked down through southern Africa two years later, I had to be very careful about how I used my camera.
That was because many people did not want to have their images captured on film.
That was still the case in the late 90s when I started working at The Voice.
Back then it was also seen as quite reasonable for someone to simply not wish to be in the paper so we had to get written permission from the people we photographed before using their images.
That attitude changed, however, when cameras became standard equipment on mobile phones and everyone started snapping away.
Today many, if not most, people seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to post pictures of others on the internet without their permission or even their knowledge that it is happening.
That strikes me as inconsiderate and potentially quite harmful.
Do you really want everyone with access to the internet to know where you were and what you got up to last night?
And do you really want the government, Google and other corporations… and anyone else for that matter… to be able to access the personal information that is on your computer and your phone?
I certainly don’t.
Yes, I think there have been many valuable advances in recent years and I think some of the privacy compromises we make are quite acceptable in order to stay connected and be part of the modern world; but not all of them.
The world is no kinder than it was 34 years ago, so I think we still need to be careful about how much information we give away.