The Guardian recently published a feature by Cory Doctorow about data protection and he likens the amount of data that is collected about us to a nuclear meltdown waiting to happen:
"For example, you now must buy an Oyster Card if you wish to buy a monthly travelcard for London Underground, and you are required to complete a form giving your name, home address, phone number, email and so on in order to do so. This means that Transport for London is amassing a radioactive mountain of data plutonium, personal information whose limited value is far outstripped by the potential risks from retaining it.
"Hidden in that toxic pile are a million seams waiting to burst: a woman secretly visits a fertility clinic, a man secretly visits an HIV support group, a boy passes through the turnstiles every day at the same time as a girl whom his parents have forbidden him to see; all that and more.
"All these people could potentially be identified, located and contacted through the LU data. We may say we've nothing to hide, but all of us have private details we'd prefer not to see on the cover of tomorrow's paper."
Much as I love over-exaggeration, hyperbole and weird metaphors, I'm seriously struggling with this concept. How on earth can a person's actual final destination be located by the station they end up at?
I travel to Leicester Square Tube station every working day. Transport for London, or indeed anyone who gets access to my Oyster Card data, has no idea what I do after I reach Leicester Square. I could be going to one of the many thousand of premises that are a short walk from Leicester Square. Whether I secretly go to a knocking shop, a liposuction clinic or furtively buy a BigMac, none of those things are going to be discovered by my Oyster Card usage.
The only group of people who could potentially do me harm by knowing my travelling habits are enterprising burglars. They could use it to tell I was at work all day and not at home, but I reckon it's far simpler for them to keep an eye on my house, than steal data from TfL.