Technology and the Future of Online Privacy
One statement we often hear being thrown around is that thanks to the internet, privacy no longer exists.
If you’re like most people, the internet is a complicated thing that you don’t really understand. In truth, the wide open nature of the internet is such that people have little to no control over their information, and in fact, online privacy is something that is more wishful thinking that anything else. Still, the biggest question is which direction privacy will go in the future, whether we’ll be able to regain more control over our personal data or if things will just continue to go downhill.
There is no doubt that technology is beginning to take over our lives, being seamlessly integrated into almost everything and quickly playing a major role in our world. Known as pervasive computing, these technologies are making our entire world interconnected so that everything is intrinsically linked to everything else by computers and networks.
If we take a look at how privacy has changed in just the past few years due to this inter connectivity, it would seem that things will only get worse from here, as the increase in online services and usage has led to more information being collected. The more online data there is has obviously led to less individual control and one could easily suggest that the trend will definitely continue.
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom, even despite the huge interest the tech companies have in data mining, as pervasive computing may have one major, unforeseen benefit for the user.
As technology gains a larger foothold in our lives, it also makes it much easier for us to begin to comprehend it in a brand new way. While many people still feel the internet is something that’s impossible to grasp, these new forms of pervasive computing are allowing us to see technology in a newer, more familiar perspective. What this means is that it’s bringing the issue of privacy to the forefront and making it easier for your average user to understand its importance.
With new products like Google Glass, users can actually watch data being collected and see how it’s used, making its effect much more visible and people more aware of the issue. With this increase in awareness, there is a good chance that people will start to take these privacy issues more seriously and hopefully take action.
The other thought is that these new technologies themselves could help us take action, as pervasive computing tends to focus more on the individual, with the possible result that it puts individuals back in control of their own data and information.
Moving Towards the Internet of Things
The rise in awareness of these major online privacy issues has finally begun to result in a major backlash against those companies specializing in mining, buying, selling and trading our personal data.
Still, the reason it has taken so long for people to begin to react again lies in the hard to understand nature of the internet.
However, as we begin to see the shift away from the standard internet towards what’s known as the internet of things, it has also begun to make technology easier to understand. When we see technology in the real world, versus the abstract world of the internet, it makes it easier to put expectations on what we feel is appropriate.
Just as there are social norms which tell us what types of behavior are appropriate in certain social situations, this increase in real world technology may also allow us to develop these same values regarding it as well.
Take the example of Google Glass. Although it was designed to offer a greater connection between the real world and the digital one, what it really did was make people more aware of how technology affects our privacy. We have now seen its use being banned in many places around the globe, as people become more concerned with the implications.
This type of reaction is something that was rarely seen with the internet and could be a good indicator of how things will progress as technology becomes more integrated in our lives and total connectivity takes over.
Letting Technology Work for You
As we move more towards the internet of things and find more of our everyday products being connected through technology, we are also moving towards a more personalized world designed for the individual. All of this is being done with the goal of increasing the uses of our everyday objects to allow each person to do things their own way and achieve whatever goals they have regarding technology. The real goal is to allow each of us to be an individual, as we can all use these objects in different ways.
For instance, smart home technology may allow parents to monitor when their children come home from school in one home, while enabling the neighbors to remotely lock their doors to prevent break-ins.
This shift towards more individualized uses of technology comes with the hope that it will also allow us to take a more personalized approach to privacy, especially if more individual controls are built into the technology.
However, the real determining factor on whether this will ever happen or not will lie in how these new technologies develop. If a few major corporations continue to dominate the scene, the odds are that this new found control will be nothing more than an illusion and we will still be stuck in the same position of having to live by their rules.
Still, this is also why it’s important to begin to consider the issue of privacy now, as whether or not it will exist in the future is tied directly to this increase in real world technology. If there is a real focus on creating open, customizable technology through pervasive computing and we can finally begin taking back control, then maybe, just maybe privacy will continue to live on in a new and exciting future for both individuals and all of mankind.