Do you remember when your grandparents or parents told you about the “good old days” when you could buy a coke for 25 cents, a movie ticket for a dollar and no one were stealing your identity off the web? In today's world 4.8 billion people have smartphones, but only 4.2 billion people have toothbrushes(60seconds). Technology has been growing at an absurd rate in past couple of years, “Within five years there will be over 50 billion smart connected devices in the world, all developed to collect, analyze and share data” (forbes). The use of technology continues to increase each year. It makes me ask the question, how does the access and use of technology affect people’s personal privacy?
With all this new technology our private information has never been less secure. Last year I played a game that required me to collect gems, the only way to get gems was to complete surveys or watch videos. After an hour of completing surveys and watching videos I checked my email and there was a ton of spam mail. I wondered how these websites found my email, I was careful about not entering my email or phone number into any of the online surveys. In the book 1984, by George Orwell the main character, Winston struggles with privacy. He is constantly reminded that the thought police and big brother are watching him. At any given moment the thought police can vanish him from society. Winston has no privacy, he can’t act abnormal anywhere or the thought police will get him: “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself- anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide” (Orwell 55). The party was always watching him, making him think twice about what he said and what his say body language told. Throughout the book Winston didn’t feel safe about his privacy and didn’t trust the party. The party's decision not to give their own people any sort of privacy shows that they feared what humans would do if they were allowed to have original thoughts.
People's personal information is not always kept private. No matter how hard people try there is no possible way to have complete privacy in today's world. Technology has made it easy to obtain information about almost everyone. You can find out where people live, where they work and even their hobbies. Personal privacy is defined as “the freedom from damaging publicity, public scrutiny, secret surveillance, or unauthorized disclosure of one’s personal data or information, as by a government, corporation, or individual: Ordinary citizens have a qualified right to privacy” (dictionary). In our latest presidential election Hillary Clinton's campaign manager’s email was hacked. Some people blame her loss on the stolen information made public. It is believed that Russian Hackers were responsible. You may also remember when North Korean hackers released one of the producer’s text in retaliation for the movie The Interview. Both of these instances where private conversations were made public, were very damaging to the people involved. People become vulnerable when their private conversations are made public.
Technology has negatively affected people's privacy even though it is essential in our lives. With an astonishing 4.8 billion people with smartphones our generation is so much more susceptible to our privacy being invaded. Uber, a taxi app that many people use, tracks your location even after you arrive at your destination, it can access your contacts and camera roll (Uber). Uber is only one of many apps that track your location, some without you realizing it. Every time you use a credit card, visit a website, watch a movie on netflix or even take out a library book your personal preferences are recorded and can be monitored. When do companies like Uber cross the line when it comes to accessing your private information?
This new age of technology makes it easier for people to be manipulated through advertising. Everything that we do online is recorded and can be used by companies to entice us to buy or by the government to look into our habits. This is relevant in my book when Winston starts liking Big Brother, “But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother”(Orwell 266). His change in heart was because he was manipulated by O’brien (an inner party member). It was the party eliminating his right to be an individual. They interfered with his thinking, they used their advanced system to overcome Winston's independent mind. You might not know but technology affects the way you think more than anything else. When you talk on your phone while driving it lowers your brain activity by as much as 37%. This really shows how much technology can negatively affect humans, if by talking on a phone while driving your brain can be working at 67% of its normal capacity. Research has shown that our minds don’t function at the level that they usually do when we use technology (Alton).
What is the line between privacy and public safety? This has been a highly debated issue. After people found out the extent of surveillance on American citizens many people realised the value of privacy over personal safety, “ In 2001 about 55 percent of Americans believed it was necessary to give up some civil liberties to curb terrorism. By 2011 that number fell to 40 percent. And in a June 2014 a survey from Pew, found just 23 percent of those polled said Americans “need to be willing to give up privacy and freedom in order to be safe from terrorism”(ConstitutionDaily). With the increasing threats from terrorists mostly ISIS, Americans are reconsidering the balance of privacy over security. A new poll shows that 70% of people think that it is more important for the government to protect us against terrorists even if it means less privacy. Last year Apple had a fight with the FBI about privacy vs security. Apple refused to open the Iphone of the San Bernardino terrorist shooter, saying that it takes away from its customers privacy. In the end the FBI was able to get into the Iphone without Apple’s help.This new thinking has come from the ongoing terrorist threats across the world. Technology has allowed people to be updated about anyplace in the world within minutes. If something happens in Afghanistan people all over the world know what happens. People become more knowledgeable about the threats around the world.
How does technology make it easier to invade our privacy? Are there times when that is a good thing? When I first started to research this I didn’t realize how important it was to safeguard our privacy. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”(U.S Const. Am. 4). Even though public safety is a huge issue it doesn’t outway our constitutional right to privacy. Our dependence on technology has negatively affected that right. It has made it easier for bad people to access other people's information as well as making all of information available to the government. Technology has made our lives easier but at the same time it has made us less safe. Without privacy we lose our security. After doing research and reading 1984 l worry that it is possible for technology to one day abolish privacy. People need to realise that without privacy they will never be truly free. Technology is both a blessing and a curse.