Technology has changed the way we communicate and interact with others in society. It has infiltrated the most “fundamental aspects of our lives: social organization, the body, even our self concepts” (Banks, 1). With the continued rise of innovative technology and the Internet, big businesses and companies have found ways to use personalized, private information of consumers for business and various social interactions that take place in society. In today’s society, much of personalized information becoming available to businesses stems from the power of the Internet.
This information, or big data, has brought about the “ability to observe, to surveil and to collect interactions in large datasets” about consumers (Tufekci, 1).
With this data, businesses can adjust their models to cater to the attitudes, the behaviors and the desires of consumers. We vary in our interests as consumers (e.g. interest in media outlets, political interests, shopping interests). As a result, businesses use the personal information of consumers as research for persuasion and outreach with consumers. As Tufekci argued, computational politics “allows businesses to study people at the individual level, gathering information from things such as magazine subscriptions and voter preference for example to cater or market things to consumers. Computational politics (e.g. Facebook ad aimed at particular voter) has changed the public sphere of society. Computational politics has changed the idea or concept of personalized or “private” information. Instead, this information is public in the sense that businesses now have the ability to access what we want or desire the most.
In my opinion, businesses or organizations having the power to access our information to better suit our desires is not always a bad thing. For example, I like to shop for clothes, particularly bow ties, blazers, dress shoes, socks and shirts. On some occasions, I will shop from Amazon.com. In addition to what you purchase, Amazon provides you a list of suggested items that you can purchase as the consumer. In most cases, based off of my search preferences or personal information, I like the suggested items. In this case, the algorithms are not being used in a negative light.
In other ways, such as websites remembering credit card information, private databases, or voter advertisements on media outlets based on my political party preference are examples that personal information should not be shared. These two things are very personal in nature for many of us. As private information becomes more public to businesses for example, it also becomes easier to people to hack and steal your personal identity through the Internet.
With advancements in technology and the rapid growth of the Internet, it is important that consumers be more cautious and more careful about what information they allow businesses (“the watchers”) to see. Businesses will continue to surveil the personal information of consumers. Kevin Kelly offered the remedy for “over-secrecy, stating that we should consider the idea of coveillance” (Kelly, 1). Kelly argued that “we make tracking and monitoring as symmetrical — and transparent — as possible. That way the monitoring can be regulated, mistakes appealed and corrected, specific boundaries set and enforced” (Kelly, 1). I think these “boundaries” are needed for things that people feel are more personal to them.
After all, as Kelly mentioned, how would an “individual maintain the boundaries of self when their every thought, their every utterance, and their every action is captured, archived, analyzed, and eventually anticipated by others?”
The Internet has allowed for more private interaction between people. It is understood, however, that private is not necessarily private when it comes to businesses overseeing this information.
Thus, it is up to consumers to monitor and watch what information they put out for others to search and use in reference to them.
Privacy and Publicity Readings
Banks (2011): Sousveillance and Justice: A Panopticon in the Crowds
Kelly (2014): Why you should embrace surveillance, not fight it?
Jurgenson N and Rey PJ (2013): The fan dance: How privacy thrives in an age of hyper-publicity.
Davis and Jurgenson (2014): Context Collapse: Theorizing Context Collusions and Collisions
boyd (2013): Eyes on the Street or Creepy Surveillance?