The Digital Divide in D Major

What constitutes private property? Is it a piece of land that no one has access to? Do you post a sign up that keeps people at bay? Or is it intangible as well…perhaps private intellectual property; some algorithm written on one line in a multi-million code line piece of software. Many have ideas on what constitutes a privacy and private property. For instance, social security numbers or credit card numbers are always considered private…they’re not given out to people or organizations without the consent of the holder of said numbers/cards. However, don’t be so sure that your information is safe.

As companies increase their business with technology, their information collection engine revs up and begins to go into overdrive. What sites do our visitors go to? What product would they be more likely to buy? What have been their last 10 purchases and would they like to see a product similar to it? This information collected is only on the outskirts of the real information such as SSN or Credit Card numbers but just the same it is information about you and about your habits.

Imagine this alternative look at information collection for a second. You get up one morning and open up your blinds…it’s a beautiful day. You slap on some clothes and begin to get ready for whatever it is you might do that day. You lay out a backpack and begin to get your things together…perhaps an ipod goes in with some ear buds…a pair of comfortable shoes in case you decide to go walking…a water bottle in case you get thirsty. Whatever you might need for a day out at a shopping mall or just plain out. Now picture a guy standing at your window where you drew your blinds snapping pictures of what you’re putting into your bag and writing down notes.

That would freak me out right away…but that is exactly what is happening to us online. We’re being studied and recorded every digital step we take. To me, this is definitely wrong…but to others, it is just normal. Odd how things can become normal after only a few years. Just the same, would you want someone standing over your every move in a certain area…recording everything you looked at, everything you touched or walked by…everything you might have expressed interest in? Probably not. This is the outskirts of the third digital divide.

The first digital divide was purely social-economic. It happened when countries that could afford the new fangled technology of the internet were spurring their economies with online purchases and online business. Countries that couldn’t afford to jump the bandwagon ended up eating its dust. This new digital divide though is political. This could be the third digital divideit could be the fifth…it just depends on who you talk to.

Washington DC cannot protect its citizens’ rights currently. This division is so large that they (politicians) are lapsing behind to protect everyone’s right to privacy. Here in the U.S., we’re not alone. The other major internet using countries such as Britian and Australia are also lagging, though Australia is more proactive than many countries.

Yes, this digital divide is between citizens of countries and their governments. The governments bureaucratic red tape clogs up the arteries of technology like a 4 pound angus burger with mushrooms. Governments fail to see that they are playing catch up…or they don’t care. Should they? I believe so. After all, there are laws in place to protect citizens. There are enforcers of this law also in place to protect citizens. For order to prosper, there has to be respect for the authorities and the authoritative restrictions that the law places on the citizen. However, currently there is no respect because there is no law. Government is losing the ability to govern. In cyberspace, the only government that exists is a dot gov domain…and that’s just a static webpage.

What can we do? Nothing really. If one of us called our congressmen today, they wouldn’t know half of what we told them. Congressmen and Senators are normally technologically inferior to a box of hair. They’re out of touch with how citizens can use technology and how businesses use technology. Citizens wield little power in this struggle.

As the government fails its people and the ability to protect them, those with any clues whatsoever will flock to arenas that they have more control in. For instance, using software that promotes privacy (crapcleaner, firefox, and spybot S&D) and using software that they control (such as Linux and BSD). Little by little, citizen’s technological voice and concerns (as they become more familiar with their ability to control it) will become louder. It is then that politicians will be forced to deal with ‘that technology thing.’ For now, I believe we’re in a rut. Stuck. Call your politician to see what I’m talking about. Ask him/her what they feel about cookies and listen to them launch into a speech about oreos. Thanks for reading. I wait until they can come back with anything having to do with browsers…

Author: devnet

devnet has been a project manager for a Fortune 500 company, a Unix and Linux administrator, a Technical Writer, a System Analyst, and a Systems Engineer during his 20+ years working with Technology.

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