TECH TALK: “I know who you are and where you live…” – The Internet

by Eric Austin
Computer Technical Advisor

In my first column, I wrote about the perils and pitfalls of shopping on the web. Over these next few weeks, I’d like to delve deeper into some of the new issues that face us now that we live in an online world.

Let’s face it. The internet is here to stay and it has been transformative. Things can’t go back to the way they were because they have been changed forever. For some of us, this is a bit scary. For others, not so much.

Part of the problem is that the internet has evolved faster than we have had a chance to adjust. To illustrate just how drastic this divide in generations is, let me give an example from my own life.

I have two sisters, one older, one younger. There is 14 years difference between them.

My older sister has a Facebook account, but you won’t find any pictures of her children there. Her main concern is that, unlike a physical photo, a photo on the web can be easily copied and shared without her being aware. This is a valid concern, and likely understandable to many of the parents reading this.

Now, in contrast, my younger sister recently had her first child, and his entire life is chronicled on her Facebook page. She and her husband share a huge amount of their lives online, and even used it to find a nanny. They harbor none of the fears of my older sibling.

So while online privacy will continue to be an important issue into the future, the discussion is going to change as the next generation, accustomed to life online, finds the open nature of the internet to be no more risky than walking through a busy mall. In fact, according to a recent report in U.S. News, online privacy barely registers on the risk radar of millennials.

Beyond individual privacy, the internet opens up interesting new ethical questions as well. My brother-in-law, who works for a company in New Hampshire, mentioned how he researches new job applicants on social media. “If they’re drunk and throwing up on the rug in every picture on their Facebook page,” he told me, “I might think twice about hiring them.”

Is it fair for a prospective employer to evaluate an applicant’s private life as part of the criteria for a job? Or is this a good thing, giving employers another tool for finding the right person for a job?

Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at a number of these issues, what we can do about it, what we can’t, and why, in many cases, it’s not going to matter.

For my next column, I’ll explore how we are tracked on the web, what information we leave behind, and how that information is used to manipulate us. That’s right. Get ready, because I’m gonna scare the livin’ $@%& outta ya!

Have a tech question or idea you’d like to see covered in a future column? Email me at ericwaustin@gmail.com! Until next time, happy computing.

 
 

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