With an army of tiny and powerful sensors embedded in household devices, add the increasing willingness of government to peer into the private lives of its citizens - here in the U.S. and elsewhere. The scandal surrounding CIA Director Gen. David Patreus - with FBI agents hacking into a shared email account used by the DCIA and his paramour - was a great example of the subtle and unpredictable ways that cloud-based services like webmail can undermine our privacy. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has made a top priority of exposing how the U.S. government is interpreting and applying the broad powers of the USA PATRIOT Act and its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) courts to subpoena records from mobile phone carriers, email providers and God knows who else. Sure, FISA is all about observing non-citizens, but the government hasn't exactly been forthcoming in discussing how broadly it interprets the act, EFF notes. So, while it might be premature to worry that the NSA or FBI might be listening to what you talk about while you're driving, or obtaining secret subpoenas for the data stored in your refrigerator, this year's CES makes it clear that it's not crazy to worry about it.
We didn't hear or see much in the coverage of CES about the next wave in technology: wearable computing. But trust me: its just around the corner, and its going to change everything. Already, Google's Glass project is moving out of the prototype stage and toward a developer-focused release that sets the stage for wider availability. And there are plenty of Google Glass competitors in the wings, Apple and Microsoft among them.
What we don't know is how melding technology into our every waking moment - either through integrated glasses, contacts or - heck - corneal implants - will change the way our brains develop and how we socialize. There's already ample evidence that excessive screen time can be harmful to brain development in young children. And, anyone who has gone to pick-up at their local elementary school, waited to catch a ride on the subway or gone Trick-or-Treating can attest to the fact that - at least in advanced societies - grown ups have largely abandoned face to face interactions in favor of interacting with their devices.