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This Election May Be Scarier Than You Think

Not that it isn’t scary enough — but if you look at both candidates, who have had their images destroyed largely by technology (tapes and emails) — there is a huge warning inherent in the process.

Email really wasn’t a big thing until the late 1990s and even having your own email server wouldn’t have been likely before 2005, let alone thinking through the security aspects. The Trump tape, which wasn’t indexed based on the off-air segment, would have been nearly impossible to find before it was digitized and indexed.

It’s likely neither of these issues would have come up before Obama first ran for office, because you couldn’t have found the footage in a reasonable amount of time and linking a third-party server into the government system would have been far more difficult. (Yes, you did have folks using personal email services like Hotmail but not their own server.)

Increasingly, videos like Trump’s are being indexed, digitized and archived in a way that makes them easier to be found, and now — take a breath — your social media, email, and increasingly videos of you (often recorded by people you don’t know) are going through an even more robust process.

As you watch Billy Bush lose his job and likely his career, he could be the canary in a coal mine. What I’m suggesting is that there’s an increasing likelihood that what happened to him, as well as to Trump and Clinton, could happen to you or your kids in the not-too-distant future.

I’ll share some thoughts and close with my product of the week: an app that actually could make your IoT stuff work as promised.

A Digitized World

We talk a lot about digitizing our life, and we’ve had several attempts at life cameras. What many people don’t realize, though, is that our lives already are being digitized on a massive scale. We’ve recently learned about the government program that was scanning and indexing correspondence on Yahoo’s email service, and you have to know there is virtually no chance this is an isolated instance, and that there have been a number of initiatives to capture, digitize and index our cellphone calls.

Social Media already starts out being public, and there is already an initiative in place to make scanning social media accounts a requirement for entry into the U.S. It is certain that social media is being scanned regularly — and with vast improvements in facial recognition, pictures and videos taken by our friends, family and strangers are being scanned and, increasingly, connected to us.

What many do not realize is that it isn’t only new stuff that is being digitized — it is old stuff as well. So there is an increasing chance that — as in Trump’s case — something you did years ago eventually will be connected to your name.

It kind of makes me wonder what will happen in the next major election, because we are just at the tip of the iceberg now. It is very likely that in the next eight years, and certainly in the next 18, much of our past lives will be available to anyone who wants to do the research — whether we like it or not.

The End of Politics as We Know It

One of the questions really struck me in the last presidential debate: whether it was OK for a politician to have conflicting public and private opinions. While Clinton drifted into some screwy Abraham Lincoln response, she never really answered the question. However, in the new world that we are getting a glimpse of, there may be no “private” for most of us, and certainly not for politicians.

As we saw four years ago with the smartphone leak of a Romney talk, the idea that anyone will be able to say something in an event, even a private one, that won’t be on some social network within hours increasingly will be obsolete.

So, regardless of whether it is right, it likely will be untenable for folks running for office to have two opposing opinions (with the private opinion being the real one) because this common dishonesty simply won’t remain private. Email really never has been secure. I was auditing it back when it was first created in the 1980s, which suggests there always are eyes on email, and what you write could — and likely will — be used against you.

Given the lack of honesty, almost to an extreme level, it is also clear that this election is fueling ever-more-powerful real time fact checking. Given that the fact checkers currently have no controls placed on them, I expect some abuse. However, the ability to maintain lies for even a few minutes soon may be obsolete, as more and more folks learn to live-search information on candidates’ comments during their speeches and debates.

It wouldn’t surprise me if in future debates, some streaming services run fact-checked responses in real time right next to video of the candidate talking.

I wonder if we also shouldn’t apply a qualitative metric, though. For instance, let’s say you have two politicians one lies 80 percent of the time but the 20 percent that is truthful is on issues where your life is at risk, and you have another politician who is honest 80 percent of the time but the 20 percent that is false is on those same life-threatening issues.

It’s not just the amount of dishonesty but how much damage it does that is important. By the way, there is no subtle reference to Trump or Clinton here, as I clearly haven’t done the qualitative analysis on either that would allow me to drive this point home. (That would be more than a full time job this year.)

Wrapping Up: Final Thoughts

We likely should be looking more at what happened to Billy Bush and what is happening to Hillary Clinton than to Donald Trump. Billy effectively was fired for something he did 11 years ago, as a result of a process that largely didn’t exist when Obama was first elected.

All three cases also should represent a warning to everyone that what you say or write will have legs that could last your lifetime, and come back to haunt your career decades in the future. It is likely time that we all started acting like we are always on stage, because we actually are. Privacy effectively died last decade.

There are a couple of good things that I think came out of this event. Suddenly, people all over the country are taking an interest in the physical abuse of women, something that has been ignored too long. The connected male behavior is being called out, not as status-building guy thing, but as the reprehensible behavior it is.

Though unintentionally, Trump and Billy Bush may have made a good chunk of the world much safer — or at least accelerated the process of making it safer — for women. Millions of women now are speaking up about their own abuse, making many of us realize we hadn’t been aware of how big this problem was.

This could go a long way toward making men change this unacceptable behavior. If you have kids, this likely should be — and for many it already is — a topic of discussion, and that too is a good thing.

So, Donald Trump may have made the country greater, but sadly it was unintentional. It strikes me that if he took this issue and owned it, pivoting to offer massive support for women’s issues like this, and if he were believably contrite, he then might turn the leak into an asset (and he has distanced himself from the party platform). Apparently he isn’t that guy, which is why I expect he’ll lose.

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

I’ve been pretty unimpressed with the IoT efforts to date. Most of this connected crap simply doesn’t interoperate, and the point was never to just turn things off and on with your cellphone but to connect them so they’d act automatically.

For instance, it would be nice if they were capable of changing the settings on your home heating and cooling system, turning off your lights, and arming your alarm when everyone is away from home. It would be great if you could give your Amazon Echo a command like “Alexa Good Night” and have it adjust all of your electronics — alarm systems, sensors, and appliances (like firing up your dishwasher) — for what you want done while you sleep.

Right now, doing that automatically should be possible but for the most part it isn’t, because few things talk to each other.

Well, Stringify, which unfortunately only works on iOS (they’ll have Android by year end), is effectively the Rosetta Stone for IoT devices.The Rosetta Stone was kind of a universal translator for ancient languages, and Stringify is a platform created to connect simply the huge diversity of devices that are out there.


It can connect your Alexa to things that Alexa can’t yet address directly, and it actually works better with Insteon that Insteon’s own controller software, along with 600-plus other IoT platforms like Nest.

Sadly it doesn’t yet work with all of the tech in my own house, like ADT Pulse Security, the advanced Emme home heating and cooling solution or Blossom smart sprinkler controller. (This is my subtle way to get these on Stringify’s to do list.)

Still, of all the solutions currently in market, it is the most comprehensive. If you are building a solution in your own home, starting with this and picking from its supported list should give you an integrated solution that early IoT adopters will envy for years.

Stringify fixes a massive problem with IoT at the moment, and if you are on iOS, this would be an excellent place to start. These folks currently are my gold standard with regard to IoT implementation, and thus Stringify is my product of the week.

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends. You can connect with him on Google+.

1 Comment

  • Technology can be useful and it can provide a over emphasis of noise we don’t need. Hillary Clinton basically was clueless on using technology for communications and instructed a even more clueless staff to come up with a really bad ideal a personal server. On top of that it most likely was hacked and what we know for sure is that classified documents were not properly handled. Is this a strike against someone being President? Well you certainly want someone who knows how to judge ease of convenience vs security.

    Then you have Donald Trump a man with a true conviction of fixing America his way, and yet his ability to censor himself when it counts is pretty bad. Yet is this a reason to say he is not fit for President. JFK was quite the womanizer, we all know the history. Trump has no history of public office to base experience on so media focus on his personal and business life. It’s fair game, but also means he won’t be perfect and people must judge what is acceptable and what is not. Too me Hillary jeopardized the country while Trump was being a womanizing A hole. The question for the voter, who is least likely to negatively affect the country? Because, frankly neither make my list of people for any government position at all. In the end we don’t get any worse people than we ever did. It’s just that technology have given us much more data to decipher and judge. Before Twitter, Facebook, and all that video and audio archives we had just what the candidates said in speeches and in ads. Now of course almost every thought is out there and in many ways its making things more difficult.

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