Changes in technology over the last twenty years has created many wonderful opportunities for the human race to enhance our abilities to communicate with each other, conduct business, and educate ourselves. Through the rapid transfer of information, the human race is reaping great benefits, such as better medical care, weather forecasting and even disaster response. Unfortunately, because the transfer of information has become so effortless, people have also found themselves in precarious positions when it comes to maintaining their privacy when using these technologies.
Although the rewards of this new information age are endless, often, privacy may be taken for granted. Students may not realize the implications of this laissez–faire attitude towards privacy until their privacy has been breached. It is only then students realize their privacy is a right and not a privilege. The essay’s printed in The Essay Connection 10th Edition by Lynn Z. Bloom “How computers change the way we think”, Sherry Turkle, “The Paradox”, Tim Stobierski, and “Faux Friendship”, William Deresiewicz, all explore several negative issues that have arisen from the increased use of these new technologies.
Students spend hours using computers, video game systems, and cell phones, but don’t consider the data trail they leave behind. Yahoo, Google and other major search engines will track user search requests to tailor specific advertising to the user. These modern conveniences hold precious information about daily locations and movements, websites visited, and electronic messages. Every smartphone is GPS enabled, constantly tracking a student’s every move. Leaving data markers, revealing businesses, places, and events someone has attended.
This type of technology use would normally require a search warrant if it were any entity other than the phone company. Every day, cell phone users allow this type of tracking, merely by having the cell phone turned on. Unfortunately for the user, without this type of tracking, many of the apps installed on cell phones would cease to work. It seems that a double standard has been created towards privacy. It is okay to give up some privacy as long as there is a perceived benefit for the user.
Students reveal vast amounts of personal data about themselves through social media, and don’t think about permanency of such disclosures. Students mistakenly believe they do not own their privacy. This ideology has created a world where just about anything can be found out about someone online. Students also mistakenly believe there is anonymity online, yet the entire Internet was designed to share data. Simply posting a photo from their home can reveal the exact geographic location in short order.
Should the government take steps to protect people from this privacy intrusion or is it up to the user to know better? In a free society, the argument has been made that it is ultimately up to the user to take precautions against privacy intrusions. In “How Computers Change the Way We Think”, Sherry Turkle argues, “One might also hope that increased education about the kinds of surveillance that technology makes possible may inspire more active political engagement with the issue”(39).
Turkle seems to express hope that through proper education these younger generations will see the importance of limited tracking of our electronic fingerprint, and begin to implore legislators to pass laws to prevent such tracking. Students seem to have a veracious appetite for new technology. It seems guaranteed that new technology is almost always embraced by students before the main stream population shows acceptance. A good example of this is the proliferation of text messaging among students. Texting has become intrinsically tied to student culture.
In “The Paradox”, Stobierski explained “Some university professors across the country have even begun allowing students to text in answers”(68). Although the student may feel more confident and willing to answer question this way; the fact of the matter is students are also carrying around tracking devices in the form of a cellular phone. These cell phones constantly monitor their moves, able to pick out their location with-in a few feet. Social media seems to be one of the most prolific examples of this double standard. Students willingly provide sensitive information through Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
They reveal so much data that these applications now regularly collect this information, using it to market products and services to social media users. Social media users allow this intrusion because they perceive a benefit. This benefit could be free video games like Farmville on Facebook, or staying in contact with their 500 closest friends. Companies are not ignorant of social media’s potential and have created entire advertising campaigns around their fan pages or Twitter feed. Many social media users will “like” a page to receive coupons or follow a Twitter feed to learn about special promotions.
All while providing those companies with information about themselves that they may not realize they are providing. Besides inadvertently providing sensitive data, social media users often will do it willingly. More than one career has been destroyed by an ill placed posting or picture. Even though students are well aware of these risks, they seem to be willing to take that risk too. The question then becomes why? In “Faux Friendship”, Deresiewicz states “Now we’re just broadcasting our stream of consciousness…hoping that someone, anyone will confirm our existence”(58).
It seems this validation is the ultimate benefit perceived by the social media user. In the near future people will come together and demand better privacy protections when using electronic technology. Until then, students need to be keenly aware of their technological presence and try to mitigate any negative impact that use may have. Students need to educate themselves on what data is being collected and how to control who uses it. Finally, students need to understand they have a right to privacy.