News reports about personal data leaks tend to be about credentials for bank accounts and other online services. However, it is biological data that will soon be the most valuable kind. Unlike passwords and bank accounts, biodata cannot be changed, so the effects of any leak will be lifelong.
Already, biodata obtained from medical and police databases can be used to forge biometrics-based personal documents, blackmail victims (for example, by threatening to make an illness public), refuse services based on low life expectancy (as done by insurance companies, recruitment agencies, and credit organizations), and even in ways that affect health directly (through exposing the victim to a personal allergen, triggering a phobia, hacking a pacemaker). And whereas previously only special labs collected such data, modern tech opens up all kinds of opportunities for the gray market in biodata.
Sensual sensors. Wearable gadgets, now commonplace, have numerous data-harvesting capabilities that are not specified in the product description. How about a Fitbit bracelet that measures your Sexbit performance? What about headphones that capture specific brain activity? And is your smart speaker listening in on things it shouldn’t? Of course, manufacturers will swear up and down that their gadgets do nothing of the kind. But remember all the fuss about collecting user location data? That bonus feature of mobile apps was also kept quiet. For now, the use of secretly harvested biodata is hindered only by the fact that the data is difficult to analyze. However, big-data analysis techniques are coming along in leaps and bounds, so soon your fitness bracelet (and the hacker who connected to it) will know a lot more about you than you do.
Grassroots biometrics. The development of remote and contactless biometric collection technologies is making it possible to analyze the reactions of the human body in various, at times contrived, situations — and without the subject’s knowledge or consent. For example, stores can use telebiometrics to study visitors’ reactions to particular products, and political parties can surreptitiously test electoral slogans on voters to help select the most effective. Such biometric “readers of emotions” will find widespread application in many areas: from systems monitoring conjugal fidelity to top-level business negotiations.
Incidentally, the advance of biotracking tech is set to have a tremendous impact on public behavior. For example, concealing eyes and fingers from the gaze of optical scanners will be far more important than hiding a bare chest. And getting your hair done will involve a fresh metallizing coating, both to shield the brain and to prevent hairs falling out from which DNA analysis could reveal all sorts of things you’d rather not share. Or perhaps you would? Then welcome to the world of genetic dating, where the chat-up lines will be rewritten: “Has anyone ever told you, you have the most incredibly beautiful nucleotides?”