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Database Nation by Simson Garfinkel

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Smart Machines Create Active Databanks

On April 14, 1999, computer maker Hewlett-Packard ran a three-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal. The first two pages were a massive black-and-white spread showing a rather well-kept garage with a big empty space in the middle. A car has recently been removed. The text reads:

Your daughter inherited it from you. The lead foot, that is. And you left your vintage Jaguar in the garage. You think. Only you're out of town, so you're not sure. Enter e-services. E-what? A security chip in the car recognizes your daughter's key and engages a "soft limit" that won't allow the car to exceed 65 mph. Which, of course, she attempts to do. Instantly, the car sends a signal to a service you subscribe to, alerting you to what's going on. Three thousand miles away, you excuse yourself from the dinner table and as you walk towards the lobby you push your speed dial. Your daughter is no more than three blocks from the driveway when the car phone begins ringing. How's that again? Businesses and services are using the Internet in ways that go far beyond today's websites. They're adding a whole new dimension to the term "service." The next chapter of the Internet is about to be written. And it has nothing to do with you working the Web. Instead, the Internet will work for you. http://www.hp.com/e-services.

The next E. E-services. Hewlett-Packard.

Hewlett-Packard's vision of an active world begins to hint at the not-so-benevolent future that could await us. Why does the HP chip in the Jaguar block the daughter's attempt to speed, but not her parents'? Why does the parent get the phone call from the car, and not the local police? Why isn't the insurance company notified about the unsafe driver? Why doesn't the car's dealer get a report of the speeding and use it to invalidate the warranty on the car's transmission? Perhaps the next chapter of the Internet will allow automobiles to automatically deduct the cost of a speeding ticket directly from your bank account, without the added cost to society of having a police officer chase you down.

Why should you, the data subject, control the data shadow of everything you do today?

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