No online space should be considered safe. Internet service and phone providers, media research firms, online stores, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, the NSA, are tracking your online activity. Websites sell data about its members to other companies. None of this is illegal because it is disclosed in the fine print of service agreements, which few of us ever read. Indiscriminate tracking is now a fact of online activity.
Before computers, it was time consuming and expensive to track individuals. Technology has made it simple, immediate, and cheap to keep records of various kinds on our lives. Small, powerful devices like smart phones and tablets combined with massive computing power and cheap storage has resulted in our personal data and our locations being indiscriminately tracked. Our online browsing is being watched by advertisers and data brokers.
Information is power. Those who have access to our personal data have power over us. Indiscriminate access to our data can embarrass us, rob us, and even accuse us of criminal behavior. Analysis of this glut of data is often conducted by mathematical algorithms, devoid of human editors. This can create a culture of fear and broken trust. We should all be concerned about privacy.
New technology has brought benefits and hazards. We can’t let the dangers of online activity prevent us from using technology. We need safe online spaces for ourselves and our children.
Source: Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance by Julia Angwin, Henry Holt and Company, 2014.
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