☆ Is Everyone Done Freaking Out About OnStar? Good. Now Let’s Face Facts. / by Damon Lavrinc

Are you carrying a mobile phone? Do you own a GPS device? Does your mobile phone have GPS functionality? Then you can be tracked. Easily. And in most cases, legally.

But that’s not what the sensationalist headlines are about. OnStar’s terms of service have been amended and the gripe heard ‘round the Web is about customers unsubscribing from the service while the two-way connection remains intact. And this is a big deal because…?

The continued connection – which can be severed if you ask OnStar when you cancel your subscription – isn’t Big Brother. It’s data. Mainly data that’s being used by municipalities (nearly all and not being sold to private companies… yet) to improve traffic flow and keep that wonderful traffic information streaming to your devices.

Here’s a fun fact: the majority of traffic data is still being provided by companies like ClearChannel, using such high-tech data gathering devices as… helicopters. Freaking. Helicopters. In 2011.

If you really want really real-time traffic data – not the stale, 15-minute updates you’re getting now – you’re car, your phone, your GPS device, all of it needs to be transmitting data continuously. You want the future? Be willing to pay the price – anonymously.

Ah, anonymity. The battle cry of the ill-informed. Not that anyone could find out your home address, telephone number, credit score, wife’s maiden name, dog’s veterinarian and you’re preferred sushi place with a minor amount of digging. Use FourSquare? Stop reading.

But that isn’t stopping pundits and supposed “security experts” from crying foul. “Your data can’t be anonymized” they say. “You park at home so the system has to know where you live!” Not that your billing address is practically public record and most mailers have a return to sender label if you move. Ever try unsubscribing from the Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog? Good luck. 

So what’s the real bitch about? Control. Control of data. Control of services. Control of anonymity. The latter of which is a pipe dream in the 21st century. But until we’re ready to have an honest conversation sans the knee-jerk hue and cry, we’re left with lazy reporting, bullshit “analysis” and clicky headlines that do nothing to inform or evolve the debate. First thing on the list should be to face facts; living in the modern world, you’re not anonymous anymore. Come to grips with that and then let’s have a chat.