To whom it may concern;
I will post a text every week, and most likely late Sunday, with some reflection on the previous days. This is where I can reflect and contemplate on the various topics I’ve been through at the university. I may not include a thought on everything, but I hope that I can engage in something that sparks my creative light. Creative people know well that the spark is not always easily found, but exposure to content can often ease the process.
Tracking. We leave our tiny digital prints where ever we go in our modern society. Most of us has heard of cookies; Small capsules of information, soaking up our habits on the Web. These are used to store information about us on our computers. They make our lives easier in many ways. Remember when you’d have to punch in your login information every time you visit a site? Cookies got your back. They help the site remember who you are and can store your credentials – and a lot of other frequently used information. So why is this a bad thing? I’s sounding pretty useful. Well, like a lot of other conveniences, it can be exploited; Your information is tracked. Third parties can use information about your habits make money – and this is big business. You may wonder how the ads you see on a site know exactly what you’re interested in.
We’ve been so used to having access to loads of free content and sites, but nothing is truly free, and we should be aware of how we’re paying for that access. Regardless of the platform we use.
Richard Stallman is one of those brave souls standing up against this new world of collection information. He’s a well-known activist for free software (free as in freedom, not as in beer) and programmer. Most famous for the development of the GNU software and the Free Software Foundation, and of course the GNU General Public License (GPL). Many view Stallman as a fundamentalist, and this can be valid claim, but he’s a beacon and his views are becoming more relevant than ever before. You don’t need to follow his pathway through the digital era, but people should be aware and then choose for themselves. I’ll include some links at the bottom of this post.
What else is going on besides cookies and tracking? Like most businesses, they want you around. Returning customers are often a source for recurring revenue. How can a site like Facebook keep you around for extended sessions of browsing? This is where we bring in choice architecture. Large teams of engineers use technology and psychology in ways to keep you around, making sure that you see content that may intrigue you to continue surfing. Like, one more cat video, right? I’ll link to a podcast from Sam Harris where he’s speaking with Cass Sunstein about choice architecture, and other interesting topics.
So, what’s the big deal? Does it hurt me? How does it affect society?
I’ll not attempt to answer them here and now, but I may revisit the issues in future posts, but the short answer is yes, it’s kind of a big deal.
Richard Stallman: https://stallman.org/
Richard Stallman, Explaines Everything:
Waking Up with Sam Harris – #101 – Defending the Republic: https://samharris.org/podcasts/defending-the-republic/