Yesterday I arrived to a meeting eight hours late. Yes, I did say 8 hours late. I know, you are probably thinking that I have taken the whole arriving on “Ethiopian time” to a whole other level. But in all truth, I have nothing but technology to blame. The meeting was planned online while I was in Ethiopia and other person was in Washington DC. My work calendar saved the meeting in Ethiopia time, while our meet up point was DC. So here I was, walking into an office 8 hours after I was scheduled to! Now if this is not what lost in online communications looks like, I don’t know what is.
Our reliance on and trust of these little machines is worrisome. We have phones, tablets, small laptops and now watches and glasses that constantly keep blurring the line between reality and virtual reality. We trust our computers and other devices to remind us when we have meetings, deadlines, to pick up our children, what to buy from the grocery and everything in between. We take these devices everywhere, they even come with us to the bathroom. And if we loose them, we can track them and find out exactly where they are. Is that how easy to track us then?
I was reading that if you have Facebook open on one page or somewhere in the background and you are working on your device and have other windows open, Facebook tracks your activity. Apparently this is so that it can “customize” the advertising experience on its page. If you’re trying to buy a plane ticket, it will track that and advertise online platforms that sell tickets and hotels and all that you can possibly need to get to your destination and when you spend your time here. Call it what you may, but in my humble opinion, that’s spying.
I have been thinking about online privacy for some time now, the reason being that there is no such thing. Everything you do is monitored, your emails, pictures and things you had saved as personal. There’s an on going case where Apple has been ordered by US courts, by the demand of the FBI, to unlock the phone of a man who along with his partner killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California. Apple has refused to comply with this order because it leaves a dangerous precedent of Apple allowing the FBI to unlock people’s phones and invade their privacy. This, I believe, is a symbolic move by Apple. The FBI itself stated that if Apple does not comply they will find a way to unlock the phone with the help of the CIA and NSA.
Without fully realizing it, we have introduced into our lives a machine that by providing us a false sense of privacy has literally opened our lives up to the rest of the world. We tell the world where we are, whom we’re having lunch with, what is on our minds and so many things that used to be information reserved for just a few people. I feel that each time I open a new email account or download an app I am signing my life away by agreeing to terms and conditions that I am certain only a handful of us have read. Even if we have read these terms and conditions, we still do not really know what they mean.
I often wonder why we, as users, are compliant when it comes to the invasion of our privacy. Although one can argue that governments are overseeing the works of these companies, we the users need to have a means of organizing and getting our voices heard so we can maintain our privacy and not be monitored at all times. Both the government and companies have their own interest in mind when it comes to the internet, but who’s representing the conscious consumer?