They’re Always Watching

cyber-security            “The Googlization of Everything,” by Siva Vaidhyanathan and “Defining the Sensor Society,” by Mark Andrejevic are both journals about how our online privacy, as well as our consumer privacy is being completely removed. While the two authors make many of the same points, the articles are looking at two different aspects of the same issue. Vaidhyanathan makes the point that everything we do online is being tracked. All of our searches and Internet surfing data is being stored. Every bit of information we add to the internet is stored and traceable. Vaidhyanathan believes that all of this invasion of our privacy should be alarming to us, because we are losing control over our personal data. He says, “the Googlization of everything entails the harvesting, copying, aggregating, and ranking of information about and contributions made by each of us.” (Vaidhyanathan 83). Not only are we not getting paid for these cyber contributions, but our contributions, searches, “likes,” and all other internet dealings are being stored, used, distributed, and sold. Vaidhyanathan talks about the importance of understanding the privacy policies of the internet sites we engage in, but also concludes that those privacy policies are generally hard to find, hard to understand, and every changing. The only real way we can protect ourselves is to discontinue our participation in the process. He says, “We must constantly monitor fast-changing “privacy policies.” We must be willing to walk away from a valuable service if its practices cause us concern. The amount of work we must to do protect our dignity online is daunting.” (Vaidhyanathan 84). Most people do not thoroughly read privacy policies when they are signing up for websites like facebook or instagram. And even when people are upset about privacy infringements, rates of use have shown that most people are not willing to give up their participation in those websites.

Mark Andrejevic’s journal poses similar concerns, but focuses more on the means of data collection. He says, “These days, we generate more than we participate—and even our participation generates further and increasingly comprehensive “meta”-data about itself. Our cars, phones, laptops, Global Positioning System (GPS) devices, and so on allow for the comprehensive capture of the data trails users leave as they go about the course of their daily lives.” (Andrejevic 20). All of our devices link together a details snapshot of our routines and desires. These snapshots are then used to create personalized advertisements that play directly into our habits. Much of the time, we are being tracked when we don’t even realize it. If we have our cell phone running, there is data stored that tracks our every move throughout the day, so marketers can know whether we like to be out shopping, or prefer to be sitting at home. Andrejevic believes it is only going to get worse as new technologies come on the market. “As such applications proliferate, our devices and our environments are likely to become increasingly populated by sensors in what would once have seemed surprising ways: car seats with heart-rate monitors, desks with thermal sensors, phones with air quality monitors, tablets that track our moods, and so on.” (Andrejevic 22).

Vaidhyanathan and Andrejevic have similar warnings and similar feelings about the current state of our privacy. They both feel that we are freely turning over way too much personal information that has the potential to risk our safety, as well as disrupt many of our relationships.

I agree with all of their concerns, and certainly agree that people need to take greater responsibility for their own privacy. It is important to weigh the quality of fulfillment from our internet and electronic use against the risks. For me personally there are several key factors as I assess my privacy. The first is the tracking of internet searches. There is nothing I search for that I would be ashamed of if it were to become public. Sure, I would prefer that the entire world not be privy to my Amazon tampon purchases, but these types of revelations would not be detrimental to my life if they were to be made public. Second, I actually appreciate seeing advertisements that are relevant to my life. It is rare that something pops up on my screen that is way outside of my personal box and I like it that way. Connection is another huge bonus. As a military spouse, my facebook has become an invaluable way to keep up with old friends and family. I would not have been able to maintain nearly as many friendships if I did not have access to this tool. I also really appreciate the fact that I can give my kid a cell phone and then can track exactly where they are at any given moment. While I can see how these things could potentially jeopardize the security of my family, I don’t see the risks being greater than they were before all of these technologies. There have always been bad people in the world. Those bad people have always found ways to exploit the weaknesses of our lives. While their methods may change, we are always going to have to make sure we teach our kids how to stay safe.

I believe having a good understanding of the internet and cyber security is better than cutting ourselves off from modern technology. Andrejevic makes it pretty clear that our society is moving quickly in the direction of our entire lives being completely tracked. If it is unavoidable, then we must learn to live responsibly within the society in which we have our lives.

 

Sources:

Andrejevic, Mark, and Mark Burdon. “Defining the Sensor Society.” Television & New Media 16.1 (2015): 19-36. Web.

Vaidhyanathan, Siva. “The Googlizatio of Everything (and Why We Should Worry).” Berkeley: University of California Press. (2011). Web.

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