Did We Create Our Own Surveillance Society?

Millions of Americans have joined the outcry that the country has become a ‘surveillance society’ bent on knowing our every online thought, movement and word. One could argue that this point of view is not entirely unfounded, given the fact that two popular companies shut down their email services this week.

The story behind those shutdowns is intriguing: one company had allegedly received communication from the government which ordered them to surrender the email messages that were stored on their service. Rather than give in and surrender the messages, the company made the drastic move of eliminating their email server completely, and without notifying their customers. The company had said that it would rather face customer ire than know it had put their privacy at risk. And even though the second company had not received any correspondence from the government about surrendering any messages, it shut its own servers down as a protective measure.

Good Points for the Surveillance State Mentality

It’s widely known that sites like Google and Facebook are tracking what we do, the things we post, and what we like and don’t like. This information presents a golden opportunity to target us with ads that are relevant to our tastes, making us more likely to purchase products and services.

Did We Create Our Own Surveillance Society

What’s worse is the fact that nothing posted online ever really dies. Certain user data is combined with other user data, and even offline consumer data. At least one individual says that George Orwell’s ‘1984’ vision has now become reality, and lament that keeping our online privacy is virtually impossible, due to the many pitfalls that we can fall into by forgetting to configure one setting.

Still others say that corporations are working together with governments to make sure that data sharing never stops. After all, governments can make good use of the data collected by corporations. And corporations have no issue with purchasing data collected by governments. But is that the whole story about privacy?

Lack of Online Privacy: Our Fault?

While most internet users may never even know they are being observed, there are many forces at work behind the scenes, watching and gathering information that we don’t give them permission to. Several users have blamed the sites they use for not giving them enough control over their privacy.

But another school of thought says when pointing the finger at the lack of control over our online privacy, that we should be pointing the finger at ourselves. But how can this be so? Allegedly, human beings may be wired to not exercise privacy.

According to researchers, the methods we use when we interact with people offline simply don’t work when we try and apply them to the online versions of those situations. In fact, although we may try and judge the safety and privacy of our online situation, that judgement much more often than not ends up being grievously skewed. The result is that we get a false sense of security, which leads to the over sharing of information.

Online Privacy Concerns Off the Radar In Two Decades

Others say that the concept of privacy we hold so close today is actually an illusion that has been dead for some time, and will soon be outdated. In fact, they say the concept is outdated enough that online privacy may not even be a blip on our radar screens in the next 20 years.

But what’s beyond the concept of online privacy? Radical transparency is one possibility. This scenario involves absolutely everything we do being recorded whether we allowed it or not. And this scenario could be even closer than we think unless, as some are strongly suggesting, the internet itself ‘learns to forget’ as well as its well-demonstrated ability to remember.

Guest author Anita Griffin writes on a variety of technology-related topics.  She recommends www.highspeed-internet-providers.com as a resource for investigating various broadband technologies available.

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