Our Robot OverlordsRecently I grudgingly took the leap and upgraded my personal laptop to Windows 8… now with “SkyDrive,” so you can put all your personal files onto someone else’s computer (completely beyond your control) in the capable hands of a megacorporation that PROMISES it won’t get hacked or mine those files for your personal information. Even though the “terms of use” you must sign allows them to do so “to shape your user experience.”

Uh, gee. No thanks. I’m still annoyed that Microsoft bought Hotmail and turned it into Outlook. Gosh… you mean Microsoft bought a successful existing internet service, unnecessarily revamped its interface into a glossy POS with big animated buttons, then involuntarily ported the entire user base over to wallow in that self-same dumbass concoction? Kinda like AOL did to ICQ?

I sense a great disturbance in the Force… as if millions of internet users logged off in terror, then were suddenly silent. Can you say “OMG, Microsoft ditched Windows Live Messenger and bought Skype“? Ugh.

Meanwhile the Amazon.com mobile app on my Android just initiated an automatic update demanding permission to turn my phone on whenever it wanted, to activate my camera and mic to record (and transmit) whatever was going on in my general vicinity, and to go through my archived email and messages to extract information about my contacts, interests, “personal interactions” and buying habits. And no, that’s not a joke.

WTF? I’m not real comfortable with a lot of the Privacy Policy settings of phone apps these days, frankly. The requested permissions would allow the makers of an app to target you and zero in on your location, turn your phone on in the middle of the night (even from the “power off” mode), rifle through the contact lists, messages, and emails stored in your other apps, save that info, and record and transmit sound and video out of your bedroom on a network of its choice to any third party location of its choice.

I sincerely hope (as vain a hope as that may be) that these “privacy” permissions aren’t being used in that particular way— at least not yet— and are instead part of a broad, uncoordinated, over-reaching long range strategy by software makers at all levels to secure all potential legal rights to use customer data for any use to which a phone could conceivably be put… just in case it comes in handy later. Handy as in, say, selling your info to an interested third party advertiser (or identity hacker) for a profit.

There are a LOT of software providers out there demanding the same permissions. Some are tiny start-up app developers. Others are massive corporate software giants. And a whole lot will undoubtedly begin in the first category only to ultimately wind up being bought out and owned by those in the second category— and when they get bought, their customer lists (with the permission release data) go right along with them to the new owner.

It’s scary. I’m hesitant to go through all of my other apps and find out to what else I may already have agreed. Once you surrender those rights to a corporation, you don’t get them back; I have a sneaking suspicion that any semblance of my personal privacy is long gone. I’m shamefaced to admit— I was so enraptured by the whistles and bells, and the convenience, of my many supercool computer programs and mobile phone apps— that I never even saw it go.