By Bernard Wainaina
Preparing to move into their new house, friends of mine bought some self-assembly furniture.
When they unpacked it, they calculated that one piece was missing, so the lady of the house went back to the furniture matt store.
There, she was shown a CCTV image of herself carrying the piece away on her previous visit.
It was my friends’ mistake,the piece had been at home all the time.
So was this an ingenious and successful use of modern technology?
If so, why does it make me feel deeply uneasy?
Nobody is certain how many CCTV cameras are operating in all our shopping,banking halls,ATM booths,recreation,parking and travel points of entry and exit, but estimates range between 1.8 million and 4.2 million in Africa alone. Even that lowest figure represents one for every 25 citizens in our continent.
How many times a week/a day/an hour are we being filmed innocently going about our business?
Must we surrender our privacy in the cause of protecting businesses, catching shoplifters and spotting speeding drivers?
Pro-privacy campaign group, ‘Liberty’, said: “Who cares if there is one camera or 10 on the street if that one camera is pointing into your living room! What is required is proper regulation and proportionate use.”
Now for computers.
A friend made some online checks on a Nairobi hotel, after which an advertisement for this hotel would appear every time he logged on.
Worse, checking through an item he had called up on an entirely different subject, he found the ad embedded into the topic disguised as a headline.
And the following things happened to me.
Writing an email message on my laptop computer the other day, bells sounded and the writing facility was blocked.
An ad flashed onto the screen from the company which provides my anti-virus protection urging me to UPGRADE
Only when I acted on the ad (clicked it off — which means it will be back again), was I able to continue with my message.
Then trying to watch a film clip from Botswana showing a leopard diving from a tree to catch an impala, I first had to sit through an ad for an electronic product, which naturally I will
Finally, checking a newspaper website, I was startled by a voice singing an ad — for an electronic product, of course.
Since I couldn’t work out how to turn it off, I had to leave the website for a bit of peace.
So the question is: Who’s in charge of my life?
Remember HAL, the wayward computer in the movie, 2001, A Space Odyssey, and beware.
Despairing techno-footnote: The International Aviation Safety Agency says electronic devices such as mobile phones can now be left switched on during flights.
Imagine it — trapped for eight hours next to somebody blathering away on her mobile phone about her wonderful holidays or wedged between two pompous businessmen
broadcasting their successes to the office back home, or trying not to listen to some Lothario romancing his girlfriend 4,000 miles away!
Excuse me, Miss Airhostess, can you bring me a parachute so that I can bail out from this farce?
“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®