Blaming technology when society goes wrong is lazy
Facebook is an easy target. With its size and history of privacy gaffes, criticising it is like taking aim at the proverbial barn door.
The same could be said for the online world in general. When we are faced with a social problem, from cyber-bullying to privacy breaches, it’s much easier to blame technology or the company that provides us with it than to take responsibility ourselves.
We can truthfully say that the internet has changed us, but once we start talking about how and why we need to factor ourselves in as well.
Whether we are talking about teen suicide after cyber-bullying, online stalking, loosing our privacy to targeted advertising, the formation of online hate groups, or the true value of Facebook friends then new technology and how it has changed us is not the only issue.
We also need to not just take responsibility for the things we put online ourselves – the photos we post and the like – but for choices about eh sites we use and what we are prepared to accept from the companies that own them.
The internet only influences us and our society because we use it. Sites like Facebook, MySpace, Google, iTunes and all the rest are commercial propositions and expecting them to not use the information we allow them to collect - and voluntarily provide – to their full ability is unrealistic.
Most of don’t read the Terms and Conditions of every website we use, and it’s hardly surprising given how long and complicated they can be. But if we are not prepared to read and potentially reject them then what right do we have to complain?
Doing so also denies us one of the things that makes the internet so attractive: active participation. It’s a cliché of the digital age that anyone can say anything online. If this isn’t entirely true – only about one quarter of the world has access at this point – the freedom to put ours ideas, opinions, and information on public view should come with some responsibility.
We may not always have complete control over exactly what is said about us online, but as individuals and a society we need to take some of the liability if we are going to enjoy the benefits.
Many of us are very willing to take advantage of online opportunities that suit us – the pervasiveness of illegal downloads of music, films and television shows this. If we’re willing to take advantage, why should we expect not to be taken advantage of?
We should not be relying on corporations to always tell us exactly what they are doing with our information, especially if we are not willing to ask, or even read their Terms and Conditions.
Nor should or can we rely on government regulations to take complete care of us. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for legislation to keep up with technology, particularly given how little national borders have to do with the online world.
Corporations and governments have some responsibility, but users need to be part of the equation as well.
We need to take advantage of the tools that we have to manage what we do. Last week Facebook announced three new ‘features’ which they touted as offering more control and more privacy: further control over which friends see different aspects of what we post, the ability to download our profile, and a dashboard which details which applications have recently accessed our personal information.
Their rhetoric should be taken with a grain of salt – it’s not immediately clear to me how being able to download my profile gives me more control over it – but we should also take the opportunities they offer.
After all, if we don’t what right do we then have to complain? If we’re not interested in what’s going on have can we be upset that no-one is telling us?
Controlling how online interactions of any kind affect us as individuals or a society is not always easy. For most people the online world is part of life, from paying bills to searching for a phone number, booking holidays, working, entertainment and organising their social lives.
Choosing to control our information and what is done with it is not simply a matter of not participating if we want to be a functioning part of society.
But that doesn’t mean we can simply avoid responsibility for what we do online.
As users we should at the very least be thinking about how we interact, who with, and what for. The internet is changing our society. Whether this is for good or bad is a matter for us to decide.
Don’t miss: Get The Punch in your inbox every day
Get The Punch on Facebook
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…