Letting Go

Some rights reserved by Dave Pearson

Everything is connected. I remember when a friend of mine was telling me when I switched to an Android phone that Google is now going to record all my keystrokes, all my searches, and everything I do on my phone. My response to that was, “What company doesn’t?” All the personal information that we choose to enter into an online space is such a valuable asset for companies to make money that to a certain degree, I feel like it wouldn’t make sense for a company that is trying to survive to not have and use that information.

For example, from Apple’s Privacy Policy:

“You may be asked to provide your personal information anytime you are in contact with Apple or an Apple affiliated company. Apple and its affiliates may share this personal information with each other and use it consistent with this Privacy Policy. They may also combine it with other information to provide and improve our products, services, content, and advertising.”

So, they’re even telling you that they’re going to use personal information, using a purposefully vague language. This then takes me to the idea of advertising. I’m amazed at how Google finds and locates key words (both in English and in Japanese) from my emails and shows me ads based on it.

From Ads in Gmail

“We are always looking for more ways to deliver you the most useful and relevant ads – for example, we may use your Google search queries on the Web, the sites you visit, Google Profile, +1’s and other Google Account information to show you more relevant ads in Gmail.”

And of course, Facebook…

From Advertising on Facebook

“The ads you see are selected for you based on the things you do on Facebook, such as liking a Page or commenting on a story, and the information you share, such as your current city or birthday. Ads can also be selected for you based on information that you share with advertisers or because of how you use their websites and apps.”

So, someone can always see and access whatever we do on the internet. Yes, we have to be mindful and careful about what we share and post on the internet, but in the end, the internet is a public space. The former Technology Director, Don Buckley (@donbuckley) at The School at Columbia University used to tell us that whatever we write in an email should be something you would be fine with if it were published on the front page of the New York Times. I think this is the mentality we should have about what we do on the internet in general.

With that idea in mind, my extremist position is: Let go. Let go of the notion of how everything you have digitally and posted online, is private, even things stored in the cloud (remember when Dropbox got hacked?). With this idea in mind, how you start sharing on the internet shifts a little. You put out information that you are willing to share with others publicly, making you more mindful about your actions. Going back to the idea of digital footprints, this will lead you to build a positive one who can stand as a role model for students who are beginning to build theirs.

Let Go
Some rights reserved by ~BostonBill~

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2 thoughts on “Letting Go

  1. Akio,

    Thank you for posting the privacy policies of companies that I use all day every day and should have read years ago. I should be reading them every few weeks, in fact, considering how quickly they all change them. I think it’s interesting that all of this information is in plain sight for all users to access, but I would wage a penny that I’m not the only one who doesn’t regularly check up on it.

    Your professor’s advice that we all regard emails and anything else that we post online as publishable, public documents is intriguing, but a bit unsettling. If we all took this advice to heart, it would force us to take many steps back into the past in terms of the way that we communicate…Living abroad, I often use email to communicate with my closest friends and family back in the States, which means that I share details of my personal life…If I decided not to do that any more, I’d be forced to either wait until I see them in the summer or take out an old pen and paper and write a letter, which just doesn’t cut it any more. (I imagine your professor would also be wary of sharing personal information over Skype…?)

    Do you find that this advice from your professor is something that you’re able to apply in your daily life? In what ways has it helped or impeded your ability to communicate freely?

    Interesting post, thanks!

    Jess Faivre

  2. Good points! I like to use the example that anything you share should be something you would be proud to have your mother and your boss see, since in the end it’s quite likely that they will see it 🙂

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