Apologies to Martin Luther King, Jr. for borrowing his famous saying, but that's what came immediately to mind.
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Have you ever had a dream that you immediately wake up from and can remember pretty much every thing that went on? I think most of us can say yes, to some extent or another.
A couple of days ago I had such a dream, and I can still remember pretty much all the major points as if I was experiencing it right now.
Not exactly sure what kind of company it was that I was working for. It had recently been taken over by some bigger company, and I was supposed to be on the sideline of a high school football game the very next day.
Now here's where it got strange. For whatever reason, I had been given a metal water bottle earlier in the week. I had been carrying it around all the time, and it was supposed to record the sights and sounds of being on the sideline during the game.
At the meeting, I was shocked when the manager told me that this recorder had been live all week long. Every place I'd went. Every thing I'd said. EVERYTHING had been recorded into their database. Needless to say, I was very upset as I had been expecting it to only be active during the actual assignment.
We went back and forth about this for some time before I finally told them I would quit and then demanded they removed all recorded information from their computers. We were in the middle of removing records when I woke up. Or more exactly, my baying Jack Russell, Sally, woke me up, and I had to get up.
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This dream brought to mind two things.
First off, what would you do if you found yourself in this situation. I studied to be a journalist when I went to the University of Montana (GO GRIZ!!). This was back before the Internet played such an important part in everyone's daily life. When most people wrote a physical letter rather than email through a computer program.
Journalism was a specialized field, with certain rules of form and style. People were columnists, not bloggers. In fact, the term "blogging" didn't even come into vogue until mid-1999, when Peter Merholtz coined it as a contraction of Web Log, which John Barger started using only a couple of years earlier. Now, as newspapers, one by one, are shuttering their doors anyone, with a computer and an Internet connection, can call themselves a blogger and share their wit and wisdom. (I can see the comments from the Peanut Gallery right now!!).
There's tons of awesome goodness on the Web where a person can have absolutely no idea about something, but within a few clicks of their keyboard have more answers than the venerable Encyclopædia Britannica. Unfortunately, there's also a lot of bad stuff that's totally inaccurate, and often misleading. The reader has to decide if they believe it, which may be hard depending on how much they knew to begin with.
Second thing brought to mind was regarding privacy and how much the freedom of information on the Internet has eroded that. Not so much little by little, but in a big "fire hose" deluge as of late. In fact, Google likes to use that phrase, fire hose, when talking about developers connecting to their collection of information and links.
And every time there's a minute change to the privacy statement at Google or Facebook people are screaming bloody murder as if they're giving away Social Security and bank account numbers. In reality, they are not publishing using anything that is not either publicly available or that you, as a user of some form or another has voluntarily provided them.
I scratch my head when people complain so much as if they expect these FOR PROFIT companies to give them what they want due to some altruistic belief.
In September 2011, Simon & Schuster published a book by American journalist Jeff Jarvis, called Public Parts. In it Jarvis argues against the common public perception that the Internet, and especially "social media," are making America a dumbed down society, surviving on sandwich-sized bites of information at a time.
Jarvis goes on to suggest Society needs to protect the Internet as it belongs to everyone and for everyone's use. Just look at last year's Arab Spring. There is little doubt that had it not been for publicly available social media outlets, such as Twitter and Facebook, many countries in the Middle East and North Africa would still be under the thumb of their dictatorships.
People just need to make sure they educate themselves when they fill in their private information to understand where it might be used by the organization they're giving it to. They also need to understand it WILL be used by the organization for their needs, which might include sharing it with other organizations.