Privacy? For Social Media?

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Gadgets Now

 

Although this is the final blog assignment for my Social Informatics class, I will probably continue to comment occasionally on the topic. It is evident that information and communication technologies (ICTs) have inundated our society and continually impact many areas in our lives. Our verbal language reflects the influence of ICTs and social media in our daily lives. We discuss events or ideas found on “blogs” and “Facebook,” our favorite books are “tagged” with the central ideas or characters and reviewed on GoodReads. E-mails take the place of phone calls in many businesses and teens are overheard telling friends to “text” them. When we search for information online, we “Google” it. But how often do we stop and think about the privacy issues associated with our daily use of ICT and social media? Many of us talk about it and might even glance at the security and privacy policies on certain websites. We might control various aspects, such as who can “see” our information, but in reality once the information is outside our own sphere we no longer have absolute power over our own words and ideas. Shadows of our information will persist in cyberspace for years.Which brings about the question pertaining to social informatics and privacy issues – how much should we share?

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Part of our difficulty deciding what to share online may have to do with the all-inclusive nature of social media. Although people may have many “friends” on a social platform, not all of those friends are considered strong relationships. Sabine Trepte (2015) refers to these natures as “warm” and “cold” affordances. The volume of self-disclosure exhibited to others generally changes with the level of relationship. We don’t usually share as much personal information with people verbally until we get to know them a little better. However, on social media, it is difficult to divide the groups of people with whom we interact into the various levels of closeness. As a result, we provide details about our lives in more detail than ever before. Spence Witten (2014) wrote in his blog, “Sites like Facebook and Twitter have us volunteering details about our daily lives in a way that really has no precedent. We share our locations with geo-tagging apps and functions, such as Foursquare and Facebook’s check-in feature. And we offer up images of our personal lives, available for all to see, on Instagram.”

Is this now something we all just decide to go along with? Do we become desensitized to the lack of privacy when it is related to social media? Social media definitely challenges us when it comes to understanding privacy boundaries. According to Trepte (2015), the ability to comment on others’ status updates, upload pictures, or tag friends is similar to other human interactions in relationships. These experiences contribute to “warm” affordances and break down the privacy barriers. They also contribute to the struggle we feel toward social media privacy issues. Although society has always been challenged by interactions and privacy issues to some extent, social media has presented an entirely new dimension to relationships. The turbulence we feel as we decide whether to share a friend’s photo, or comment on information, requires additional communication and negotiation. So in essence, our high-tech communication, has led to the need for even more communication, in order to respect the privacy of all those involved with social media.

“Like” this?

Neiburger, E. (2010, November/December). User-Generated Content. Library Technology Reports, 46(8), 13-24.

Trepte, S. (2015). Social media, privacy, and self-disclosure: The turbulence caused by social media’s affordances. Social Media + Society, 1(1-2). doi:10.1177/2056305115578681.

Witten, S. (2014). Social media presents unprecedented privacy issues. Lunarline [blog]. Retrieved from https://lunarline.com/blog/2015/06/social-media-presents-privacy-issues/.

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Government and ICTs

Our readings this week certainly fit in with the current political events, especially when noting how social media is reinventing government. Facebook is full of comments (I can’t even call them debates anymore) about who is the better (or worse) candidate for President of the United States. If the government actually adopted ICT and social media as quickly as the people of the United States, perhaps it would help our government to run a little more efficiently. As the consulting firm, Accenture, noted in 2012, “Social media is mainstream, and governments must develop social media savvy to interact with people and use them as sources of feedback and innovation.”

However, another one of our readings exposed a cave in Boyers, Pennsylvania that houses the paperwork for retired government workers. All the documentation for new retirees is on paper. All the processing is done by people, by hand. Some information is entered into a computer, but then it is printed back out again for placement into the retiree’s file folder. Several attempts have been made to update the system and introduce technology to assist the process. Two recent attempts have failed and the workers continue to process paperwork. On paper. Sadly, even as late as 2014, retirees still wait weeks or months for their paperwork to be processed. It seems that an updated way to process retirement papers will not be implemented for quite some time, even though workers say they are willing to change (Fahrenthold, 2014).

The government would not allow photos inside the facility, but here is The Washington Post’s illustration from: Data-Mining. The old fashioned wayw-paper_mine23a

These articles reinforced my belief that I do NOT want to work for the federal government. The slowness to adopt change, along with all the red tape and paperwork attached to government documents is especially frustrating to me. After my experiences in the military during the 1980s, where I worked on telecommunications equipment from World War II, (one had a serial number of 1), I know that the response to suggested changes is often “If it isn’t broke, why fix it?” It was good to see, however, that several of our readings demonstrated that state and city governments are much quicker to utilize new technologies than the federal government.

It heartens me to find smartphone apps developed by cities and states that allow quicker, easier access and functionality for various tasks, such as parking. Not long ago, many public parking meters were updated to accept credit or debit cards. Now, it appears that an app for the mobile smartphone can take care of parking issues (Brown, 2012). A customer receives a text when the meter expires, then the customer simply adds money to the meter through the app without going back to the car! Gone are the days of running to the meter to avoid the tickets. Television commercials featuring meter monitors will soon need to be phased out, as they will no longer have a cultural context.

Interestingly, most of the areas that grasp new technologies quickly are user-centered. Parking meters, banking, and other such businesses understand the need to move into technology-focused arenas. Perhaps, in addition to the huge volume of information the federal government handles, that is why it moves so slowly. Most of the departments do not cater to customers or users, thus may not feel the need to keep up with the latest technology. The federal government is somewhat removed from public service, unlike a state or city government, which deals with the public on a smaller, more personal scale. Although there are certain areas of the government implementing technology, such as the federal tax return e-file program, the federal government will probably always be behind the technology times. The largest cog moves the most slowly.

 

References

Accenture: Consulting, Technology, Outsourcing. (2012). Retrieved from https://www.accenture.com.

Brown, J. (2012 October 3). Governments expand mobile payments to everything from parking to property taxes. Retrieved from http://www.govtech.com/e-government/Governments-Expand-Mobile-Payments-to-Everything-from-Parking-to-Property-Taxes.html.

Fahrenthold, D. (2014, March 22). Sinkhole of bureaucracy. The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2014/03/22/sinkhole-of-bureaucracy/.