The Many-Face(d)Bookedness of our times

I began using the internet in 1991, yes, that’s right folks, 1991, when I was in the midst of my Master of Library and Information Science degree. I intro’d my class to modems and demonstrated the magic of dial-up, FTP etc., and it really WAS magic! Two years later, working for the Dominion Astrophysics Laboratory I learned how to use the WWW and intro’d it to corporate and government clients saying, ‘I’d invest in this thing if I were you’, and they just laughed at me.
Back in the day, early Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were university associated, and early community users were collectives of volunteers (BCNet etc.). It became apparent to me, early on, that there needed to be a CODE OF ETHICS for all ISPs and/or web masters (accredited and regulated) because they had access, through the back end, to SCADS OF PERSONAL DATA. As an analyst and consultant I urged clients (often govt.) to see this happen – but hey, who was I? Just a WOMAN, just a librarian/analyst. It was absurd that this didn’t happen because basically the scenario that presented itself was akin to the postmaster being able to open EVERYBODY’S MAIL, read it and collect whatever they wanted and for whatever use. While I’ve never given up my stance on this need for a CODE OF ETHICS, I became somewhat complacent believing in what I call my ‘Stasi Theory’. This is a reference to the Stasi (the secret police) who during the East German Communist years had basically EVERYBODY spying on each other (including husbands and wives, neighbours etc.), the net result being SO MUCH INFORMATION reported that the Stasi didn’t have the man/womanpower to analyse it, thus rendering much of it useless. Well my theory fell to pieces with the advent of data mining.
Now here’s the deal, I lived with a data miner in the early days of data mining, and as with anything, the capacity of these new algorithms that could collect and collate massive amounts of data COULD have been put to good use. E.g., massive analyses of huge sets of data for the World Health Org on, say, public health info that could track and predict outbreaks of contagions. This could be a good thing. But the reality is that most data miners could give a rat’s a$$ for anything other than per$onal gain … Which brings me to Zuckerberg whose pale, somewhat shell-shocked testimony to Congress appears utterly specious. Or is it?
What amazes me is the FUNDAMENTAL LACK OF ETHICS in all of this. To argue innocence, good intentions blah blah blah is worse than specious … I can’t even find the word for what it is, on this I am near speechless. Look, this is a multi-billion dollar company, surely SOMEONE in a company that $ize has some grounding in ETHICS 101 !!! Or do they? Perhaps we actually have a more challenging scenario, a generation or two without a schooling in ethics … and if this is the case, how do we address it?
It occurs to me that Zuckerberg and his screen-faced generation (and I honestly DO feel sorry for them if there alpha to omega is the screen) have been born to a new Industrial Revolution, the digital, and that their schooling has morphed into one of preparing them for this digital revolution – just as the public school acts of the 19th c. prepared worker bees for factories, banks etc. But this has come at a price. Some of the things that have been DOWNGRADED in this effort to make IT worker bees have been things like LIBRARY BOOKS, LIBRARIANS, PHILOSOPHY (hey that’s ETHICS FOLKS), THE ARTS etc. etc. I can vouch for this, I saw it happen over the 90s with the dot com bubble and burst.
Back in the day, as an analyst working with consulting companies on high level IT policy (for all levels of gov’t, including the Ministry of Education), I watched as library budgets were slashed and rows upon rows of computers that would be obsolete within a year or two were installed, librarians devalued, etc. etc.
The net result is that now, we reap what we have sown. We have the Zuckerbergs of the world who look utterly amazed that this nice little thing they invented in their college dorm (and that’s where the data miners I know developed their algorithms) could actually be used for some fundamentally bad things, and they plead innocence to their role in it all.
I argue that what we are seeing here is a case of arrested development. Somewhere along the line these masters of the universe slept through Philosophy 101, or English 100, the Humanities survey course, the places where one LEARNS WHAT IT IS TO BE HUMAN and BELONG TO SOCIETY. I don’t know what Zuckerberg’s excuse is, however. He went to top private schools, and apparently has a minor in the Classics. Hmmmm. Maybe it’s time for Zuckerberg to go back to school and start at square 1, learning what it means to live in society responsibly. Perhaps his $65.4 BILLION can pay for some tutors to help him understand the more complex ideas. We can only hope … still, it’s too late for most of us, we’re hooped, we got complacent and believed that a free lunch (free services such as FB etc.) really didn’t have a price. Now we know they do. And it’s a very dear price … our privacy, and perhaps, our liberty.
From the attached article, and worth thinking about. While I don’t wholeheartedly agree with the author, his ideas are definitely worth pondering:
‘The worst moments of the hearing for us, as citizens, were when senators asked if Zuckerberg would support legislation that would regulate Facebook. I don’t care whether Zuckerberg supports Honest Ads or privacy laws or GDPR. By asking him if he would support legislation, the senators elevated him to a kind of co-equal philosopher king whose view on Facebook regulation carried special weight. It shouldn’t.
Facebook is a known behemoth corporate monopoly. It has exposed at least 87 million people’s data, enabled foreign propaganda and perpetuated discrimination. We shouldn’t be begging for Facebook’s endorsement of laws, or for Mark Zuckerberg’s promises of self-regulation. We should treat him as a danger to democracy and demand our senators get a real hearing’
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