Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Damn Technology

Today’s computer & Internet technology is both amazing and troublesome. I think our class was about the oldest in society to have taken some interest in learning something about personal computing when the first PC’s came to our desks in the early 1980’s. I dealt with this subject in March 2006., so I won’t repeat it in this posting.

Bob Dillard’s comment in the previous post about his measured move to the Internet and the arrival of indoor plumbing in his corner of the planet got me to thinking about the subject of technology once again.

If you value your privacy as I do, there are some things you are going to want to know about this technology and its capability to intrude on your life. First, you should understand that when you ask someone how much they know about computers and the Internet, everyone lies. The subject is so vast and constantly changing that not even experts who work with the stuff every day knows more than a fraction of what is available. In order to save face, people tend to either lie or be evasive when the subject of comparative tech savvy arises. That leaves a sense in all of us that something else is going on “out there” and much of it could be nefarious. And much of it can.

A lot of people know how to blog, set up and run a website, use facebook, myspace, twitter, tweets and others yet to come, take and post digital pictures, fire off emails, utilize web-based collaborative software, operate within a CRM or ERP environment, and any number of other activities requiring use of both the net and a computer. A lot fewer people have acquired the good sense to judge what to post and what not to post. And it is in this area where you are likely to experience some problems.

The net seems to have developed as a “bottom up” environment, meaning that things are being driven by the youngest and least experienced among us…those who haven’t lived long enough to develop good judgment and caution. One thing that I find most troubling is that once data is digitized, be it documents or pictures, it is quite possible that the damned thing will never go away. Young people today have no idea how long those naughty pictures they have been posting to the net will bedevil them during the next decades of their lives, but it is entirely likely that they will never disappear, much as an old picture could come back to haunt any one of us.

What does it all mean? Well for starters, someone like me can go online and write about people I knew over 50-years ago and haven’t seen since; the person in charge of your church newsletter can post pictures of you from the Sunday social; your local Chamber of Commerce can post your name in conjunction with their neighborhood activities; any club imaginable can post pictures and other information about you; your local property appraisal districts are already posting a lot of information about your home; published obituaries give family details; someone at a family gathering can post pictures they take—flattering and otherwise; and on and on.

“I have nothing to hide,” you say. It doesn’t matter. There are people cruising the net constantly looking for something to exploit, and it could be you, whether you have something to hide or not. And don’t forget that this is a worldwide phenomenon as the recent strife in Iran has clearly demonstrated. Bob, I found you on a whim while surfing the net one morning, even though we live far apart. As you assimilate your newly arrived indoor plumbing, think carefully about how you want to manage your online profile. If you want yourself “out there” then there is no better place to do it; however, if you want to maintain a low cyber-profile, it will take some forethought.

On the other hand, the net has been a wonderful place to share information with others about things in which we share a common interest. Knowledge of narrow interests can be furthered with some ease where there might not be more than a few others on the face of the planet who share your interest.


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