A University of Iowa professor says all the technology available today is helping us communicate faster and better — but it’s also exposing more of our personal lives and habits than we realize. Mark Andrejevic says he wrote a book about his concerns after seeing a lot of talk about the positives, but little about the drawbacks to increased technology use.
Andrejevic says he sees a whole array of benefits in the conveniences of the internet and electronic devices, but he says we need to think more about how those devices are used to gather and store information on us in "an unprecedented level." His book is called:"iSpy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era." Andrejevic says many of the companies that provide technology keep track of information on users.
He says companies like Google gather information about every search term entered into their browsers, and if you use Google’s "G-mail" they archive all the messages and go through them and look for patterns they might use for advertising, "We increasingly live a fully monitored life, or we’re moving in that direction. Andrejevic says now is the time to think about the implications of all this information gathering.
Andrejevic says if we don’t pay attention to it now, it will surprise us further down the road. He says its like the proverbial frog who doesn’t notice the temperature is rising, and then suddenly realizes he is being cooked. "We kind of don’t think about the implications of all the information that we generate at we go about our lives each day, at some point we might just wake up and realize, wow, everything in our lives is being recorded," Andrejevic says. Andrejevic says laws governing information are often reactive instead of being proactive.
He says it has been difficult for any kind of stable legal structure to keep up with the changing technology and information gathering. Andrejevic says public knowledge has been slow to keep up too, as many people aren’t aware how much information is being gathered about them. Andrejevic says a good example is a survey of searches done by the Internet provider America On-line.
Andrejevic says people entered all kinds of questions, some of them about illegal activities, some revealing a whole range of "deviant" activities and interests, "the type of thing people do when they don’t think anyone is paying attention." He says the company could link all that information to them because they were subscribers. Andrejevic says the company didn’t reveal the names of people in the survey results, but he says one newspaper was able to quickly put the names to some of the information. Andrejevic says it’s an issue that should be addressed now.
He says there needs to be a "regulatory regime" that protects citizens that says what type of information they gather and builds in some sort of accountability, so we can find out what information the companies are gathering. Andrejevic says technology isn’t just something institutions impose on individuals, as he says frequently individuals use it to monitor each other. He says websites make it easy to dig up all kinds of background on people.