Is Information Technology a good thing?

I really liked what Nissebaum said that in terms of your privacy online, you must literally take the metaphor that cyber-space is an actual place. The “virtual roads” you travel down in your browsers history are constantly being “survayed” which I personally think is a light term, I like tracked. As your travel down these computer generated roads, your data which is produced by you, is tracked. You are tracked because you have a personal bar-code that is figuratively swiped every time you enter cyber-space. It is ironic to think that before the computer and age of the Internet that actual tracking of people and collecting data was a very hard thing to do.

The reading reveals that online we are constantly being tracked by invisible scanners scanning our personal bar codes. Our personal IP address make it that much easier for data collection, as well as, what we search in our browsers, what we purchase, determining our online and social behaviors. To me it is ironic, that we have no problem with companies tracking us online, because we just might not be privy or not know that we are being tracked. The same goes for the little black boxes that are placed in our car tracking us and collecting data, and still we are unaware that they are programmed in our cars. The same goes for grocery stores and any retail rewards cards. We need to know when we are being tracked and not lied to. The American public deserves to know.

What Nissenbaum is trying to make us aware is that we are under “survaliance”, “tracked” and “monotored” by higher powers, for the sole purpose of behavior modification and social control. This should be alarming to most, however we as Americans seem unfaded. The term “survaliance” under the notion that it has some attachment towards political assumptions has been taken to a new level in London. To date, London has over 6 million CCTV cameras. The tube alone has over 13,000. Britain believes it is necessary to have, “one camera for every 11 people”. London’s “Ring of Steel” survaliance cameras includes 6 million cameras, road blocks and license plate readers.

Today, and after many terrorists attempts, The United States has decided to follow suit behind London, as we have started placing and blanketing cities like New York and now Boston with thousands of cameras on the street. New York’s Lower Manhattan Security initiate uses it’s 4,000 cameras to monitor and scan licences and track people 24 hours a day. Using facial and object technology, police can track even suspicious packages. Also keep in mind that, “Facebook has the largest data facial recognition in the world”. In this article from CNN, shows that Boston big brother approach to terrorism with surveillance through cameras is going to continue as the city begins prepping to blanket the city with CCTV’s. Do CCTV cameras installed in cities like Boston help or answer the problem of terrorism? Or is this just a ploy to tell the American people so those in power can use our data and track our social behaviors both on and offline? Is technology through surveillance being abused? Drones are another issues of privacy as cameras in the sky are the pinnacle of Big Brother, now seen in L.A. Technology through drones and surveillance is now evolving faster than privacy law can keep up. Americans seems to have no problem with surveillance but like Farhad Manjoo from the WallStreet Journal believes that,”The idea of submitting to constant monitoring feels wrong, nearly un-American, to most of us.”

Like the reading suggested, we have now created a void between private and public spaces. And the tracking doesn’t stop there are cell phones are constantly being tracked as we connect to neighboring cell towers and our GPS determining our location, even at home. When does the surveillance end? And what constitutes as private space now and does it exist in places like London or Lower Manhattan? And what happens to all that data and video footage that is captured, where does it go and what is it used for? The government could care less to let us know about our black boxes in our car or that they are tracking our browsers history to survalling us in the streets and tracking us at home through our mobile devices. What Nissenbaum  makes us aware is that our private space has officially been invaded through surveillance, tracking and monitoring.

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One thought on “Is Information Technology a good thing?

  1. This is indeed a very interesting topic that is very debatable. It’s one of those topics that can have opposing views as correct answers to the questions it brings. Yes, society does need lots surveillance, but then again does it really need it that much? You presented a question, “Do CCTV cameras instated in cities like Boston help or answer the problem of terrorism? Or is this just a ploy to tell the American people so those in power can use our data and track our social behaviors both on and offline?” Generally speaking, whether it’s regarding CCTV or any other technology, I would have to say no- no as in technology does not necessarily stop terrorist activities from happening. I have two examples that would defend my case.
    First, we can look at the airports around the world. Prior to the new millennium, it was rare to hear about any terrorist threats occurring at airports. For the most part, airports were safe from threats while having very little security. As technology progressed and security became more modern, we have seen a large jump in the frequency of terrorist threats and activities in airports. Isn’t it ironic for that to happen when surveillance and tracking are at their uttermost extreme? Weren’t these two factors accompanied by efficient technological means supposed to make airports safer and more secure? I can recall back to the days I travelled to Syria. There were basically no cameras installed, half the luggage sensors were not working, and police men were gathered in groups just chatting with each other. Any foreigner would think that something disastrous would happen, yet nothing ever did.
    This takes me to my second example. Prior to the current war in Syria, the country was one of the safest in the world. According to many economic indices, it ranked in the top 10 in the world in terms of safety and low crime rates. Again, Syria never had any modern security system. Not only are there no surveillance cameras, but the majority of the streets don’t even have traffic lights. Stop signs? What are those? Syria only has a strong security personnel that blends itself with society. Syria is not the only country that lacks a modern technological surveillance system and is still considered a safe country. Egypt and Jordan are also similar to Syria in terms of surveillance capabilities and public safety. I’m talking from personal experience because I’ve lived in that region of the world. These countries rarely ever get any public threats. Keep in mind I’m talking about the period prior to the current Arab spring chaos. Now there are bomb threats and terrorist activities because there is war in the region.
    What I’m trying to point out is that those countries, being in a very unstable region, proved that modern surveillance systems are not needed to ensure public safety. How come CNN always reports of threats and terrorist activities in developed countries that have state of the art security systems? Aren’t those systems supposed to make the countries immune of such hazards? Just being able to compare countries according to their security systems and the amount of threats/terrorist activities is enough for me to say that modern surveillance and technology does not prevent hazards. I don’t understand why the US and UK are always under threats when they have the best and most complex surveillance systems in the world, while poorer countries who only rely on security personnel are much safer. I believe that governments apply such systems only for personal gains- to control information and people, not to prevent hazards.

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