A project at MIT takes data from laptops and mobile phones to create real time maps of human activities in cities or spaces. These maps can be very useful in many applications. These maps also create challenging issues for those concerned with privacy issues. Carlo Ratti, the Director of the project, says it very nicely:
Is it a dream scenario or a nightmare scenario, being able to monitor all this activity? For a traffic engineer this is a dream scenario. If you are somebody interested in architecture, this is a dream scenario. If you are somebody interested in emergency relief, this is a dream scenario. Something like [the] Katrina [relief disaster] would never have happened if you had such a system as we had in Austria [cell-phone monitoring], where you could identify where people were after a disaster and actually go and help them.
If you think about privacy this would be a nightmare.
Well, I happen to one of those who consider this to be a dream scenario and would love to see this kind of technology progress rapidly so we can do interesting things with these real time maps.