Living in our contemporary society, it’s easy to turn to personal devices for answers, communicate with friends and go about daily business tasks. We find ourselves sharing everything with our phones, computers and iPads without even thinking about it. We do, without knowing it, have a personal relationship with our technology.
In my advanced cyberculture studies class this week (yes I did say advanced cyberculture studies and yes most of the material is over my head due to the fact I’m one of the few who is not a computer science major in the class), a topic of relevance was discussed that could relate to mass media. The definition of privacy and how far is too far in relation to the future of cyborgs and technological advancements. Many of my fellow classmates claimed that an invasion of privacy would be the violation of personal relationships. But, is your connection with technology considered a personal relationship?
Your computer knows you better than anyone. It knows your daily inquisitive thoughts based off Google searches, your academic pursuits, email history, past vacation spots and so much more.
Your phone might know you better than your computer, though. Seeing as it is constantly attached to your hip wherever you travel to provide a method of documentation through pictures and videos. The maps app has a history of the places you’ve searched, traveled and even your home address. Social media outlets are connected through your phone, displaying social activities and conversations for friends and family to peruse. Your browser history displays recent Google searches and questions you have had while on the run throughout your day. There is even a robotic person in your phone to answer questions, call you by name and lead you to all of the answers of the world. It’s safe to say that your phone knows you better than anyone, maybe even yourself.
I know that I am the first to admit that I use my phone to constantly find answers. Questions arise at the dinner table that just need to be answered immediately. My recent searches include, about how many glasses of wine are in a bottle, what was the actress in Parent Trap’s name and how does radiation therapy work to cure cancer. All of these searches are completely different, yet all trace back to a time in which I didn’t know the answer to something, but my phone came through for me with a plethora of answers and links to assist my complete understanding of the topic.
This leads me to the question of, what defines privacy?
I’m always the first to admit in my journalism classes that I don’t mind if Facebook uses my most recent searches to cater my advertisements or that Amazon uses my prior purchases to display other items I may be interested in. But, would I mind if The New York Times published my entire Google search history and emails on the front page of their newspaper? Yes, I would mind.
The reason most would answer yes to the question above is that people believe the privacy between their minds and devices are the same as a private relationship. But the scary part about this mistaken assumption is that we are far from the truth.
Who owns an email?
Does Google own your emails if you have a gmail account? The answer has yet to be truly defined. An article discusses the various issues that have arose in a result of examining this topic, especially in lawsuits. Some believe the receiver owns the email while others believe the corporation owns all of the emails under their expansive realm.
With an answer so vague, why do we trust our devices with the secret questions, emails and private thoughts that consume our lives? Simply, I believe it’s because we have yet to be violated. But, who knows how long the naive relationships with our devices will last.