Our compliancy with government privacy violations

In light of the Edward Snowden events that erupted this past summer, the discussion on privacy and Web 2.0 cannot be timelier. I think most people were aware on some level that they were being micro-targeted, that is, advertising companies were building an aggregated picture of a person based on his or her digital footprints and using that information to advertise to that specific person’s interests and tastes. Is this alarming? Yes, but as a county we don’t seem very concerned. Despite lawsuits that crop up every now and again against Facebook and Google about privacy, we continue to use our social media sites and Google searches on a daily basis. Honestly, what harm can come out of a few ads that are tailored to our Facebook “likes” of what we listen to, what TV shows we watch and what retail stores we like? What we seem to ignore, or fail to know, is just how much access applications have to our information and how much is retained, stored and sold (that is to say, everything).

The nation reacted quite differently when Snowden revealed that the NSA tracks and stores information on ordinary citizens, because now it was the government who was invading privacy and gathering information, something we voluntarily give up everyday when we click a link. While the nation wasn’t (or isn’t) quite as quick to dismiss this invasion of privacy, the phenomenon of the collective whispered submission that Preston Russett describes as reactive-turned-passive (47), has been the overwhelming response to what one would assume would have caused massive upheaval. The nation was outraged, yes, but that outrage seems to have died down. It was revived slightly with the latest Snowden announcement in October that the US government also taps US allies’ communication, however that too is no longer in the forefront of American’s minds.

The increasing lack of interest among the American people of what is being done with their personal information and digital presence reflects what Robert Gehl identifies as the privilege of the new. Web 2.0 “heavily emphasizes the new even at the cost of other modes of organization such as relevance or importance” (1232, emphasis original). Not only is the obsession of the new apparent in our digital lives, but it would seem in our non-digital lives, because so much of our day is mediated by Web 2.0 interfaces. What should be considered important­–the invasion of our privacy, the extent of power the government should have in peacetime, the ethical uses of personal information–is buried beneath the constant turnover of information and news. Our already passive attitudes can only increase over time.

Gehl, Robert. “The archive and the processor: The internal logic of Web 2.0.” New Media & Society 13.8 (2011): 1228-1244. Web. 13 November 2013.

Russett, Preston. ” A Contemporary Portrait of Information Privacy: Collective Consequences of Being Digital.” Review of Communication 11.1 (2011): 39-50. Web. 13 November 2013.


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