The Word on the Week

Modern Behemoths

The decline of the Post Office in Ireland continues with the planned closure of 169 of them. This week’s announcement brought a flurry of letters to the correspondence columns of the national press the vast majority of them sent, no doubt, by email!

It is not possible to be on any street in central Dublin without bumping into someone immersed in their smart phone. People pass you on the pavement apparently talking to themselves. You look closer and notice a white flex joining their ears and disappearing under their chin. An even closer look reveals a miniscule microphone built into the flex transmitting messages with replies entering the ears.

Back at the Men’s Shed one of our number produced a new mobile phone which the supermarket was virtually giving away with the groceries. It seemed a simple enough gadget till it came to add ‘contacts’. The instructions, translated no doubt from Korean defeated us and could only be mastered by someone in junior infants!

Who are these modern Behemoths? They bear familiar names; Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and hidden behind some of them are Amazon, Apple and Google to name but three. Their ability to collect information about their users is aided by users having to comply with their demands in order to use the computer or smart phone. This data, which accumulates at a formidable speed, needs to be stored on a piece of land where the climate is cool (to reduce the air conditioning costs) and Ireland appears to tick all the right boxes. So we can expect a large Data Centre to locate here soon.

These behemoths are wealthy. Apple announced a cash reserve of $267.2 billion (a billion is a thousand million) for the second quarter this year. With their product being produced in different countries and sold globally they have been able to avoid paying tax other than at a tiny level which we, in this country, are increasingly dependent upon.

Controlling the means of communication and accumulating personal data places enormous power in the hands of non-elected and non-answerable leaders. At least non-answerable other than to shareholders whose primary interest is profit. The worth of their Data has now been revealed.

Cyber-crime involving the capture of British Airways passenger data of 380,000 people came to light this week. The investigation is on-going but it appears some of the data was sub-contracted and the sub-contractor’s security was less robust to withstand an attack than the Airline’s. Interestingly nothing has been stolen yet but a lot of people have to cancel their credit cards to prevent their account being hacked.

It is good to remember that Behemoth in the Bible is made by God (Job Chapter 40 verse 15). Also we are living in the day of His grace; this is Gospel country. Hebrews Chapter 4 verse 13 puts it – Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
And that is really big data!