1984/2017: DATA AND GOLIATH

I was struck immediately by this reading. In the introduction, Schneier talks about how integral cell phones are in our everyday life, but that by using them we are “signing a contract” that companies, and governments, will know where we are at all times. This is something that I am aware, as you can go into “Location Settings” in an iPhone, and your whereabouts for the past hours, weeks, and months can be seen. You can see how many times you’ve been to a place. This is a guise to determine your “most visited places,” but why would your phone need to know that? Some would argue that it’s for national security, but it’s really just vast data collection. Schneier also makes the interesting point that even when your phone is off and you are “disconnected,” you can still be tracked.

He goes on to talk a lot about number, and how much data we consume as humans. Although he breaks it down and explains it, the sheer amount of data that is processed and in use on a daily basis is absolutely insane. But also, not surprising to me. He also touches on mass and hidden surveillance, two things that are not foreign to Americans. We are very sensitive about our freedom and privacy, and yet we are watched every minute of every day. Even when I am alone in my bedroom, I am surrounded by devices that know my location, and Goucher College knows where I am based on the last scan of my OneCard.

Reading about body odor recognition systems that are being developed was pretty freaky for me, because that is so human and so specific. Sometimes when I think of data collection I think of it in a very computerized way, but the odor recognition thing is so humanizing that it’s a little bit freaky. Reading this, I was reminded of a variety of different science fiction stories. 984 is the first one that comes to mind, along with Fahrenheit 451. And then I always think of Minority Report with Tom Cruise when the idea of surveillance comes up. It’s really interesting. Minority Report, in my opinion, kind of inspired things like Black Mirror, particularly the episode where the man is replaying his memories over and over again analyzing them to determine if his wife still loves him. This kind of data collection is so nuanced and supposedly “keeps us safe,” and helps us “preserve memories” so we can be more efficient, more productive, and in turn, less human.

I think that millennials are much more comfortable with the idea of big data, because we have been raised on it. We have been raised on the idea that we can connect with anyone in the world with the click of a mouse. This is standard. We are used to seeing advertisements tailored to our interests, and we are not worried that someone may know our location at all times. Why? Because if someone knows our location at all times, people can find us who we may not want to interact with. However, if those people know where we are, so to do the people we DO want to interact with. It’s a very interesting trade off. We get safety, but at what cost? For millennials, this is standard. An example of generational difference is my usage of Facebook versus my mother’s usage of Facebook. When I’m on Facebook, there is a constant barrage of advertisements and news articles. However, I tend to scroll past them and only look at posts from my friends that are intriguing to me. My mother on the other hand, has extreme difficulty every time she goes on Facebook, because she is not conditioned to ignore all of the things she sees that are negative.

That example is more generational, and maybe it’s more personal than generational, but I think it illustrates a change in the human condition. Older generations are concerned with their privacy and safety as far as big data goes, where millennials are not as worried. I think this may be because this is how it has always been for us. Rather than be afraid of Big Brother, we ask ourselves “How much can Big Brother do?” Which is maybe even scarier.

I think we really need to think about how we use data, and who that usage affects, especially with the current counter terrorism methods of Donald Trump. Data can be extremely discriminatory, and as Jane pointed out in class, data has mistakes. So how can we make data collection better informed without going too far and expanding our reach?

If you haven’t seen Minority Report, here’s a link to the trailer:

 

xoxo,

Keeks (KV)

 

 

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3 thoughts on “1984/2017: DATA AND GOLIATH

  1. Hi Kira,
    You were not alone in being struck by this reading, it was alarming learning all of those things about Data collection. I cannot even comprehend all the amounts of data storage he talks about, it is bigger than we can even process. As I was going in my dorm the other day after this reading I remembered that Goucher can track where we are based on our OneCards, it is so normal to us as you point out. I would agree that millennials overall are probably more comfortable with the idea of big data based on how relaxed everyone was in class when we were discussing this. I think I am an outlier in regards to this because it thoroughly freaked me out, it is definitely not something I am comfortable with even though I know there is nothing I can do. Like you, I am scared about what the usage of this big data can be.
    -Jane

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  2. Hi Kira,

    I also thought about Minority Report when doing this reading on data collection. Another example, Captain America: Winter Soldier also explores the issues with data collection. In Winter Soldier, the government generates technology which, based on collected data, could determine who would pose a threat to them. They, then looked into removing those threats, many of whom were average people. Some of whom were children.

    This, in turn, made me think about the many human rights activist groups and the manner in which they are monitored by the government. As you state, it is worrisome to think about the manner in which this data will be used. I don’t believe there is some secret faction of the government that will construct weapons of mass destruction to target threats – domestic and global – to its evil agenda. But then again, Donald Trump is president so anything is possible.

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  3. Hey Kira! I think Minority Report has become increasingly salient with radicalization. If my memory serves correct, one of the scenes in the movie is Cruise’s character stopping a man before murdering his wife. While this is still somewhat of a stretch, I think that a similar thing could begin occurring with Islamic radicalization. Given the vast amount of data that the government has access to already, you could potentially find “terrorists” before they even break any laws. What will the government do with these people, especially if they are children? I think most people wouldn’t be opposed if the government is just targeting Islamic terrorists, but they could use that data to target all types of people. Outspoken critics and journalists could just as easily be targeted by the government.

    – Vlad

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