ignorance is strength

The metaphor of “Big Brother” should be taken more serious and literal, it seems to me, than it can be usually observed: The “Brother” implies that we do not fear him when we encouter him. Even if we feel observed we don’t care.

Possible risks of being trackable seem not to be taken into account, as the paper Usage patterns of FriendZone: mobile location-based community services (Burak and Sharon, 2004) discovers. As Larissa writes according to the paper hardly anyone minds to be publicly traceable not even by complete strangers. Of course there were most propably no imediate drawbacks for the users. But what, e.g., if your company requires you to be trackable 24/7? “The boss himself decided to publish his whereabouts”. In 1984 only few discovered the actual situation and at that time it was too late by far…

The hype (now critique/bashing within the blogsphere eg. Herr S.) of the German StudiVZ seems to point in the same direction. More than a million people signed in to present all of their personal data and favors. Now they discover not only that StudiVZ was poorly crafted and has desastrous security concepts but also that being online means to expose onself, even more on social network sites.

To me this seems to proof a frightening lack of media literacy. I can imagine the folks with StudiVZ accounts knew few about privacy on the internet. But won’t that lack of awareness pave the way to big brother just as well?

2 Responses to ignorance is strength

  1. Christian:

    But wonÂ’t that lack of awareness pave the way to big brother just as well?

    Good point, very true. The whole question of privacy and information security (once again drifting to the surface of public awareness by means of StudiVZ’s security disaster) points doubtlessly into the direction of a two-class society’s next generation: Ten years ago the line ran between those who are connected, and those who are not. Access to information was regarded the watershed of society in the Information Age. Today, since we are virtually all well connected (speaking not even only of the Western world anymore), another challenge is coming to the fore; the ability to deal with those information provided. It’s not that some people get the news and others don’t. The problem is that most of those former consumers who finally turned into producers feeding the networks with content as well are not able to conceive the geographical and technological dimension they move in while uploading their private pictures to some community site, posting their contact details and credit card numbers to virtually anyone asking for it or leaving their email addresses with every official-looking website before wondering the next week why they get carpet-bombed with spam mails.

    The average Internet user believes in the credibility of the authority. He is convinced that a community website claiming data privacy in an official written statement is as credible as a bank that promises 100-percent security of its online services or a porn site advertising a “no-dialer guarantee”. The average Internet user doesn’t know anything about privacy issues and security traps while surfing the net, or is not interested respectively. And if so, he is often easily becalmed by ridiculous statements and hair-raising comparisons such as studivz.net/blog.

    After all, I think we have no other choice but to cope with a world of growing information density and complexity, and hence an increasing potential for information misuse. The challenge will be to raise ordinary user’s awareness for those risks and hazards that exist next to all the promising possibilities of a networked future. People browsing the net, sending messages or exchanging sensitive data online must adopt the same reflex of suspiciousness that keeps them on guard while walking down a dark, empty street late at night.

  2. Hannes:

    The winner of this year’s Emerge And See Festival, Big Brother State by David Scharf, tackles the same topic, too. Concentrated on some important points for the content and visualized in an unconventional but very interesting style of animation, somehow contrasting the content. Watch it! and don’t forget to seed!