Convenience, or Risk?
Above are some intriguing landscapes. But wait – they weren’t taken with a camera. I made them with Terrragen, a terrain-generating computer program. Machine-made art. So clever. Software that’s so much fun to play with. However, there are machine-made arts that may seem helpful, even intriguing, but the after-results are not pleasant little landscapes.
“Facebook Is Using You” – that’s the title of an article by Lori Andrews, in The New York Times. The author says, “Facebook’s inventory consists of personal data – yours and mine… The magnitude of online information Facebook has about each of us for targeted marketing is stunning. In Europe, laws give people the right to know what data companies have about them, but that is not the case in the United States.”
Google, and countless other companies, sift through the data from e-mails, web-visits, and online searches. Then they sell ads targeted to individual interests. For example, if a user writes about, or searches for info about health, ads for medications and treatments appear on-screen.
But there’s a lot more at stake here than us getting bombarded with ads. According to Lori Andrews’ findings, the collected data may be used against people seeking child custody or criminal defense, allows government agents to find out what uses people make of social networks, agencies such as the IRS and the Immigration Service to look for evidence. Employers may reject interviewees based on data found online. An application for credit may be cancelled, not because of any personal history, but because of “aggregate data,” meaning a group of people with similar buying habits have been found unreliable as credit risks.
Andrews points out that data-aggregators may consider our searches out of curiosity or research as part of our own set of habits. “Because no laws regulate what types of data these aggregators can collect, they make their own rules,” writes Andrews.
There’s no question that the internet is a great and wonderful service. It’s changed the way we do business, affected our leisure time, and opened up a world of knowledge and interaction. But using the world wide web is also rupturing our right to privacy. How do we weigh the advantages of convenience against the risks of being stereotyped and tracked – spied on? Machines, deciding our future. Depersonalization. De-humanization? And all for the motive of more profits for certain companies. Do we really want our futures damaged by a few words taken out of context from a supposedly private e-mail? How do we combat the potential harm of machine-fortune-tellers broadcasting our “aggregate” fate?
For me, this issue calls for much contemplation – and prayer. How can I be as careful as possible? Is there a way to leave a low footprint on the web? And, will I, will we, know when it’s time to get off the net completely before “they”, whoever “they” may be, come after me, after you, after us?
A man from a persecuted nation once said something to the effect of -- “I’m willing to die for Jesus’ sake, but I’m not willing to die for my own stupidity of saying too much to the wrong people.”
I appeal to a higher power, Almighty God, the Lord of the Universe. May he give each of us the wisdom to know Him personally, and to “seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” Only thus may we engage in our “playdates with God,” our prayers, our respite from the buffeting from the world. Our refreshment and restoration – our present and our future – is in Him.
“Facebook Is Using You” –
This post is also shared with "Seedlings in Stone"
and "The Wellspring"