How Personal is ‘Too Personal’?

Until this reading, I wasn’t nearly as informed on how all of the ads on search engines just so happen to be my preferred online shopping websites.  Fascinating though alarming at the same time, the personalization of technology has been so developed that it almost seems inherent that we each have a distinct relationship to technology.   Within Pariser, Negroponte elaborates on how the solution to organizing what we see on the internet is simple: the internet must keep our attention by giving us what we want.  Like Jaron Lanier, I see a problem with this.  Though it is convenient to not have to dig deep online for what we want, I see these concepts limiting our ability to seek out new things and learn about new ideas that we would never think to find before.  For example, if all we see are advertisements for a certain political party, the likelihood of us being exposed to new political ideas is less.

Furthermore, the relevance factor within the internet is said to ‘benefit us’ however, it is from the Morozov reading that furthered my opinions on not only the relationship between society and the internet but one of the key elements that fueled this relationship: money.  With relevance comes advertisements and with advertisements come money.  Are companies such as Google and Facebook truly working to benefit us or are they ultimately trying to benefit their stocks and monetary worth?  It is said in chapter three that Orwell emphasizes the ‘pervasive surveillance and mind-numbing propaganda’ of technology as well as expressing his opinion that we are not entitled to privacy.  It is interesting that he held that belief considering that it is evident that both he and  Aldous Huxley failed to anticipate just how close the relationship between human and technology would become.  I wonder, if either were alive today, would they hold that same belief? Would they redefine privacy?  With the ‘technological space race’ (as I like to call it) and the persistence of different search engines and social networks to be the ‘next big thing’, what is that to say about the infiltration of the internet in 20 years from now? Will the internet really be able to tell our children ‘where they should go to college’ from simply typing it into the search box?  How personal and how intelligent will technology really become? Intelligent enough to overcome it’s creators?



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2 Responses to How Personal is ‘Too Personal’?

  1. liarosen says:

    You raise a lot of interesting questions in this post. From authors such as George Orwell, we can see themes of overall intelligence of rulers and technology, as well as concerns about privacy. I would argue that, in both the novel and modern times, concerns are mainly centered on who has access to personal information, rather than the pure potential of the technology. As an Internet user, I am, like many, concerned about sharing my personal information, however, from the company’s point of view, I can see how beneficial this information can be. Companies are far more likely to reach potential consumers if they use the information that we provide via our online activity. We, as users, need to consider how powerful technology truly is, and, taking that “intelligence” into account, should be conscious of what information we are divulging over the Internet. I have to wonder, however, if the overarching concern here isn’t simply that information is being gathered, but that it’s being gathered without us explicitly being told. For example, if you go into a store, tell a sales associate about your likes and dislikes, and she then offers you advice, do you consider that an invasion of privacy? Technically, that is what is occurring when you Google something. You tell Google things about yourself, and in return, it makes specific suggestions in the future. The only difference is that in the latter example, you are not directly eliciting advice. From a corporate and personal standpoint, it is technically more logical to present people with the information they truly want, based on past inquiries. I am by no means arguing that companies have no responsibility to respect privacy to a certain degree, but we, as consumers, also have to be aware of the potential consequences of our actions and limitations of the information we are receiving online.

  2. Kyle says:

    I agree with the comments above that you raise some really good points and questions that will have to be answered in the near future as technology advances and the internet becomes a much larger entity. One of the main things that has changed with the increasing power of technology is what the definition of privacy is. As users I think there is a trade off, whether it’s subconscious or not is debatable, in that benefiting and indulging in all the internet has to offer, we have to sacrifice and give up information that we wouldn’t normally give up. And although we know that it’s potentially being stored somewhere, the direct benefits of the entertainment we receive kind of outweigh that.With that, the definition of privacy and what information we keep to ourselves is changing and becoming less and less of an important barrier. So I think companies are struggling to kind of use this to their advantage as it’s evolving, and as of now this comes in the form of personalized ads, tons of emails and annoying pop-ups that have our favorite online stores in them.

    And in speaking of the idea surrounding what the internet will be in 20 years, like Brave New World, I think there’s an inevitable truth that it will be more and more personal and kind of infiltrate that last bit of privacy. Not being dystopian, because I think there are some wonderful conveniences and some really important aspects that would ideally come with that, but I think privacy will have to be sacrificed even more. We see this now with the online systems that allow you to input your daily schedule and it can turn the lights and the heat on before you’re scheduled to be home; Or the internet on your television that can record shows that it “knows” you routinely watch. While they are convenient, to indulge we have to give up the last little bit of “privacy” that we have in our homes.

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