Do you ever get the feeling that advance of technology may not always be a good thing? Ever since the dawn of the computer age, mankind has wrestled with the implications of an overly automated society. Movies like Westworld offered early insight into how we feared that if technology moved to quickly, our species would be overrun by cowboy robots that look like Yul Brynner. While this apocalyptic vision of bald, technological terror has largely disappeared, we are currently facing another, rather more subtle threat to our liberty: unwanted cyber friends.
I’d like to point out at this juncture that I am a not a Luddite, and regularly use Facebook and Twitter. I’m sure I still have a rather embarrassing MySpace page somewhere too. But the power these sites hold is tremendous. Not only do people have the power to stalk, shame and ridicule people on a global scale, but now it seems, they also have the power to ruin your travel plans.
This week Malaysia Airlines and SITA unveiled a new booking tool designed to work seamlessly with Facebook. The idea is that customers can book a flight via the social networking site, and then tell all their friends about it. They can even find any of their Facebook friends who are on the same flight and select a seat next to them. Now is it just me, or does this last part sound just a little bit creepy?
Let’s be honest, how many of your Facebook ‘friends’ would you actually want sitting next to you on a long-haul flight? A dozen maybe? Twenty? So what about the other hundreds of old schoolmates, former colleagues, friends of friends, and even ex-partners, who you keep accepted just to boost your numbers? How comfortable would you be with one of them surreptitiously selecting the seat next to yours?
Well in all honesty, most of them probably wouldn’t want to sit next to you either. But it is an example of how this new global network of friends, associates and acquaintances has the power to infringe on your privacy. It’s not robots taking over the world we have to be worried about nowadays; it’s our so-called ‘friends’. And if you do happen to be Facebook buddies with a bald cyborg cowboy, do be careful – you could find yourself sitting next to him on your next flight.