Reading Response #6

How does Amazon know what I’m interested in purchasing before I know? How did someone I don’t know in another country like my picture on Facebook when we aren’t even friends? Are we being watched? The rapid growth of technology has left many people concerned about privacy and the ways that global information companies use their personal information.

What is privacy? Kieron O’Hara discusses privacy in his article “Are We Getting Privacy the Wrong Way Round?”. O’Hara gives two descriptions of privacy the first is “privacy is a private good, like life, wealth, and freedom. Unlike clean air, clean water, and democracy, it isn’t a public good whose benefits accrue to the community at large” (p 90, 2013).This first description of privacy is only for the individual and sounds like something one has to work to obtain.

His second description of privacy describes it as “an option that people are at liberty to protect or otherwise. They assess its benefits and costs, and make decisions accordingly” (p 90, 2013). In O’Hara’s second description it seems to only take into account people who are knowledgeable in the way information provided can be used. There’s also the concern about the future use or effects of information that is shared. What is private now may not be in the future.

There are many opinions on what privacy is today. It was once a simpler more understood term. Another term that is changing with the age of information technology is the term evil. Evil is used in a famous slogan by Google which is also there motto. That slogan is “Don’t be evil.”

Ian Bogost’s article “What is ‘Evil’ to Google?” explores the Google slogan. His idea of Google’s definition is that it “isn’t tied to malevolence or moral corruption, the customary senses of the term. Rather, it’s better to understand Google’s sense of evil as the disruption of its brand of (computational) progress” (2013).  He formed this based on clues he said Google has left leading him to this understanding. Google’s focus isn’t on populism rather it’s on progress. After all it is a business and whatever helps it in long term growth is beneficial to the company.

With the constant growth and changes in technology and information the understanding of what is privacy or evil is in need of clarification. The change in privacy causes fear in some people – generally those who are less knowledgeable in technology and information. However this fear does not dictate the progression of technology. Not everyone is going to just get over the idea of having privacy because it is still something of value to some people. In order to protect what they hold valuable while information technology is rapidly evolving people need to understand the ways they can protect the privacy that still exists.

References

Bogost, Ian. “What Is ‘Evil’ to Google?” The Atlantic. October 15, 2013              <http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/10/what-is-evil-to-google/280573/>.

O’Hara, Kieron. “Are We Getting Privacy the Wrong Way Round?” IEEE Internet Computing 17.4

(2013): 89-92.http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6547595.

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