Last Sunday's NYTimes featured an article about a group of MIT students who've traded their privacy for free smartphones. Researchers are tracking the every move of 100 or so students as part of a study on "collective intelligence," or what the article describes as:
a vast sea of digital information being recorded by an ever thicker web of sensors, from phones to GPS units to the tags in office ID badges, that capture our movements and interactions. Coupled with information already gathered from sources like Web surfing and credit cards, the data is the basis for an emerging field called collective intelligence.
The MIT gang is using custom software on Windows Mobile phones to track literally everything their subjects do:
When [a subject] dials another student, researchers know. When he sends an e-mail or text message, they also know. When he listens to music, they know the song. Every moment he has his Windows Mobile smartphone with him, they know where he is, and who's nearby.
So I ask you, dear reader: Would you give up your digital privacy for a free cell phone and, say, a year of service? If you could have your pick of any phone currently on the market, and have your service bills paid, would you let "the powers that be" track your every digital move?
Bear in mind that this sort of experimental research involves tracking way beyond mere call logs. We're talking the content of your every SMS, MMS, and IM ... your GPS coordinates at any given time ... your mobile Web history, including where you were when you browsed and how you accessed the network (stealing WiFi? THEY KNOW!) ... and so on.
Would you be up for it? Vote now and make your voice heard in the comments.