Big Brother Behind The Wheel

Greg Beato imagines that Google’s driverless cars will further erode personal privacy:

In time, Google will know when you arrive at work each morning, how many times a week you go to Taco Bell, how long you spend at the gym. As illuminating as our searches and other online behavior might be, there’s still some room for ambiguity. Maybe you’re doing all those searches on “brain tumor” because a relative is sick, or you’re doing some sort of report, or you’re simply curious. Combine that info with the fact that you start visiting the hospital every week, however, and Google knows you’ve got cancer.

The driverless car, in short, is a data detective’s dream, a device that can discern when you get a new job, how many one-night stands you have, how often you go to the dentist. As demarcation lines between the real world and the virtual world continue to blur, autonomous cars will function not so much as browsers but links, the way we get from one appointment or transaction opportunity to the next. In theory, Google will determine the route to your desired destination based on distance, available infrastructure, and current traffic conditions. But what if Google, which already filters cyberspace for you, begins choosing routes as a way of putting you in proximity to “relevant content”?