While there is a leeming’s rush to be ahead of the pack with development of large-scale, connected, artificial-intelligence networks, society’s privacy cannot be left to unregulated peeping toms at our bedroom windows.

In the field of road transportation there are obvious advantages to connecting vehicles to each other and to the roadways on which they travel. However there must also be a framework that protects the personal information that, inevitably, becomes gathered in the vast data networks needed for connectivity.

For decades the Ontario Minstry of Transportation has been monitoring vehicular traffic along the major, 400-series expressways on a 24/7 basis. The quantity of such data is mind-boggling. Similar data is collected from any large retail outlets that track purchasing actions through the use of debit, credit and loyality cards. Even individuals who use their cell phones and fitness meters are tracked in terms of their locations and habits. A real controlling factor in usage of this data has been the lack of computering power and artificial intelligence that is now being unleashed.

Google’s Sidewalk Labs in Toronto has proposed that collected data be overseen by an independent “data trust”. But, as has been seen before, lack of transperancy allows governments and large international corporations to infiltrate such agencies with partisan entities without the public’s knowledge, resulting in no meaningful trustworthiness.

Regettable losses due to the increased powers of new technology could be those simple acts of individuals who have no ability or intention to use personal data inappropriately. Persons taking videos of their families in public places used to be an innocuous act. Various data that is unconnected and created independently in small envolopes used for various private and public purposes may also be a new target. The possession of independently-developed information itself may become illegal under new laws that attempt to harness the vast powers of large, private, data-analysis corporations and, in the process, create a society of “1984” depicted in literature and “2001” in film.

While connectivity, big-data analysis and artificial intelligence have the potential of providing great benefits to society, they also provide the ability for large, and small,  local and international, entities to escape detection and oversight. As developers of these sophisticated systems we have the capability to study the horizon ahead before following our hysterical brethern over the proverbial cliff. Let us hope this remains our choice.