Do You Trust Your Tech Too Much?

Computer technology has become so ubiquitous, millions of us pay little attention to what its creators — and those who would abuse it — are doing with that tech.

Gabriel Weinberg, founder of the DuckDuckGo search engine stated:

The American people are tired of being watched everywhere they go online. They are fed up with all the intended and unintended consequences this online tracking creates, including data breaches, invasive ads, identity theft, discrimination, and manipulation. Have you ever searched for something, only to see an ad for that very thing pop up in a mobile app, or on a different website? Our privacy policy is straightforward and doesn’t require a law degree to decipher: We simply do not collect or share any personal information at all.

DuckDuckGo was created in response to the invasive data gathering that many tech companies undertake on consumers. This is part of the premise behind the new documentary The Creepy Line, which digs deeper finding intentional manipulation. I wrote a few weeks ago:

For many months, politicians and commentators have been in constant angst over Russian attempts to influence views or elections through social media. These politicos are either very naive, or just like putting on a good show.

The Russians, and the Soviets before them, have been engaging in these activities for decades. It is so much a part of their modus operandi, that the Russian word for it — disinformatsiya — has become part of the intelligence community lexicon.

So their efforts should be no surprise to anyone. Let the people employed to take care of such things, i.e. the CIA, do their job. What you should be worried about are the people — your own people — who do the same things.

That’s where The Creepy Line comes in. This new documentary outlines how many social media and other internet outlets were designed to manipulate opinions, views, and politics — all by the designers’ own admission.

Nothing in this film is breaking news, it’s been out there, but being easily distracted by other shiny objects, we ignore the seriousness of the issue. You see, in Russia, they know the government controls the media, and adjust accordingly. It’s not a secret and never has been. In the States, we pretend it doesn’t happen here, even as the people doing it admit it in public for all to see.

We don’t have to look far to find articles on smart devices in our homes being hacked, or admissions that Amazon has people listening to Alexa conversations in your home, and how easy it is to find information about you by random strangers in public to say nothing of those with intentional malice.

Simply because technology is everywhere and easy to use, that doesn’t mean we blindly use it — or let it use us. The companies that make these technologies and on-line platforms succeed or fail based on what the consumers decide they want.

Understand how “smart” techs work, what information websites gather on you and what they do with it, and then ask intelligent questions: Can I make this more secure? Is there a better product? Do I need this at all?

That last question, coupled with some discussion of digital minimalism, will allow you to reclaim technology to serve you and not be the other way around.

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