The 21st century has seen an explosion in digital technological development, and it is still very much ongoing. Processes that have been executed in an analogue fashion, such as a handing a paper boarding card to the flight personnel, are soon becoming extinct. With so much of our personal and private information online, our privacy could potentially be out there in the open. Despite passwords and increased security, the possibility that hackers could access all of our personal information is evident. Kapadia et al. (2007) discuss the perils of pervasive environments where sensors can record users’ contextual information, such as geographical location. They argue that “digital footprints” can be made available to third parties without the users’ consent.
A good example in explaining the notion of “digital footprints” in 2014 is the smart phone. Since 2007 (and the publication of Kapadia et al.’s article) the smart phone has become the preliminary quintessential mode of the decade we live in. In order to use many apps and features, for instance, Google Maps, the GPS needs to be activated. However, agreeing to turning on the GPS means that you agree sending out information about your location. And the digital inhabitant of 2014 is not ignorant. If the President of the United States can tap the phone of the German Chancellor (Sherwell, 2013) , then of course, your GPS information surely will be available to somebody.
Founder of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, expressed his disapproval of the increased surveillance of the Web, and urge its users to protest (BBC 2014). In a BBC interview, he drew a comparison to human rights and proposed the idea of a “Magna Carta” bill of rights to protect users’ privacy.
From an educational point of view, digital awareness is ever so important, and students need to be given some instruction to start this process. Still, most of this learning will happen by experiencing, although some might not be so pleasant. However, this is more and more problematic, since it is harder to know whether you are able to know whether you are monitored or not. For example, does turning off the GPS on your phone make you undetectable?
Bergman (2001) explains how the greater part of the Internet is called the “deep web”, and is hidden from most users’ sight. When you use search engines and such, you view only the surface web which is considerably scarcer. In other words, every action you make on the Internet could potentially be monitored or traced back to. Cavoukian (2008) makes an interesting dichotomy between privacy and security. Digital users in the 21st century want to be safe, so they relinquish some privacy. The notion of a Web 3.0 is also relevant in this discussion. While Web 2.0 allowed users to communicate and interact with the web, Web 3.0 tailors the users’ needs and wants. Facebook is an obvious example. Facebook adapts the newsfeed to your digital footprints. The friends you interact with will be prioritized on your newsfeed, for example. On the one hand, this is all very convenient and Facebook users’ do not have to waste their precious time. On the other, Facebook ends up with a lot of information about you that are connected to your habits and so on.
Obviously, there has to be some kind of control on the World Wide Web, but at what cost? How do you feel about Big Brother looking over your shoulder?
BBC (2014, March 12) Sir Tim Berners-Lee: World wide web needs bill of rights [Online]. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-26540635 [Accessed: 12.03.2014].
Bergman, M. K. (2001, September 24). The deep web: Surfacing hidden values. The Journal of Electronic Publishing, 7(1), online.
Cavoukian, A. (2008, May). Privacy and Digital Identity: Implications For The Internet. In Proceedings from Identity in the Information Society Workshop.
Fettinger, C. (2010) Stop Big Brother. Flickr photos, Creative Commons License. Available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/46148809@N05/4465958653/in/photolist-7NDcV8-8GiDDf-7FhbMq-bCGudW-eQ2C44-8okYbD-8op9Nw-8op9E7-8op9yb-8op9yQ-8okYa6-8op9F1-8okY4P-8okXNk-8op9SJ-8okY6H-8okXTg-8op9Cb-8okY26-8okXMg-8op9Jb-8okXZH-8op9Df-8okY3M-8op9MA-8op9Ky-8op9RA-8okXLF-8okXQH-8op9LG-8okY6e-8okXHr-8okYb2-8op9Kd-8okXKc-8op9R7-8okY7r-8op9Bs-8op9Qu-8okXKV-8op9RS-8okXTB-8op9L7 [Accessed: 12.03.2014]
Kapadia, A., Henderson, T., Fielding, J. J., & Kotz, D. (2007). Virtual walls: Protecting digital privacy in pervasive environments Pervasive Computing (pp. 162-179): Springer.
Sherwell, P. (2013, Oct 27) Barack Obama ‘approved tapping Angela Merkel’s phone 3 years ago’. New York and Berlin: Daily Telegraph. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/10407282/Barack-Obama-approved-tapping-Angela-Merkels-phone-3-years-ago.html [Accessed: 12.03.2014].