The internet isn’t what we hoped it would be

Currently, I’m reading two articles by journalist and blogger Quinn Norton. The first discusses the convergence of encryption, journalism ethics, and digital literacy in light of recent hacks and data dumps. Of particular interest to librarians and teachers, Quinn urges that:

“Kids should be learning about networks from a young age, and the basics of how computers work. This means teachers need to learn about these things, need to make it their business, if their business is still preparing child to be functional 21st century people. From there, kids will know how to demand a better network as consumer and political actors when they grow up.”

The second article is also a good read for those interested in digital literacy. In “The Hypocrisy of the Internet Journalist,” Quinn describes her experience building tools that track consumer behavior online. As she notes, credit card companies have been doing this for decades and most people probably wouldn’t bat an eye at it. What is more insidious is the way in which, Quinn claims, these tools can change your behavior.

“What I’d do next is: create a world for you to inhabit that doesn’t reflect your taste, but over time, creates it. I could slowly massage the ad messages you see, and in many cases, even the content, and predictably and reliably remake your worldview. I could nudge you, by the thousands or the millions, into being just a little bit different, again and again and again.”

My reaction to consumer “analytics” oscillates between a stoic agnosticism and utter Stallmanism. I like seeing ads for bow ties when I visit the New York Times. At the same time, I often contemplate building my own secure system at home and completely dropping off the social media landscape.

Somewhat related is Jennifer Granick’s recent talk at blackhat 2015: