Chances are you’ve said at least one of these phrases in the past month. Technology has radically changed our lives as smart phones can answer just about any question we need, can control every electronic device in our house, give us instantaneous news, and connect us to the world.
Convenience is the name of the game, but it’s also comes at a cost. The New York Times new Privacy Project is taking an in depth look at the state of technology today and what citizens are trading for convenience. They’re looking at policy, how consumers interact with data, technology companies, and how their own company tracks, collects and shares data with advertisers and tech giants.
Working in public relations and politics, it’s easy to see the value of collecting data to better understand target markets and reach your audience. It helps us target ads, messaging, products and ideas that are tailored to individuals, and helps clients more easily reach the public. And let’s be real, my Instagram and Facebook seem to know exactly what shows I want to watch, what books I might enjoy reading, and what events in my community would be of greatest interest. But to get this data, it means trading away personal information from the seemingly innocuous like gender and age, to the more personal like where I go and what I purchase.
The Privacy Project is discussing a wide variety of perspectives and issues surrounding technology and data mining, including some of which I had not previously considered. One article that sparked my interest was how women interact with technology. We all know that it’s important to protect our personal information, but the internet experience can be a vastly different for women than it is for men. Online harassment, threats to women’s well-being, and stalking affect women more often, and they’re more likely to have stricter privacy settings on their social media accounts, post fewer photos online, and are less likely to share their relationship status or political views on the internet.
In the editorial What Women Know About the Internet, the author notes, “These views are shaped by the reality that women experience the internet differently, just as the experience of walking down a dark alley, or even a busy street, is different for women than it is for men. One Pew study found that women are far more likely to be sexually harassed online and describe these interactions as extremely upsetting. The Department of Justice reports that about 75 percent of the victims of stalking and cyberstalking are women. And so women look over our shoulders online, just as we do in real life.”
I expect this project to include more interesting perspectives and ideas to broaden our discussion around technology, as we navigate where we go from here.
Technology is the new and ever-changing frontier, and as a society, as communicators, as companies, as citizens and as governments, we’re all striving to find a balance between convenience, privacy and how our world will look going forward. I think it’s an interesting and worthy conversation, and I know I’ll be following The New York Times’ Privacy Project.
But in the meantime, Hey Siri, play “Every Breath You Take” by the Police.