By Keisha M. McClellan • March 28, 2018•Writers in Residence, Issues, Women and Law in the Media
Award-winning author and columnist, Thomas Friedman, declares that “[o]f course the world is not flat. But it isn’t round anymore, either.” I agree. Today’s technology fuses people to places, ideas, things, and other human beings. As Friedman explains, modern technology “empowers more and more individuals today to reach farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before” and that energy creates connectivity and collaboration across the globe.
By example, the US is on the precipice of connecting faster than ever thanks to innovations in 5G technology. Everything from the speed with which we will watch videos on smartphones, interface with internet-of-things devices in our homes, and experience artificial intelligence in exciting forms, will connect a new generation of devices to our lives in revolutionary ways. Technological innovations that can make us more organized and more efficient can, indeed, offer a host of positive improvements to daily interactions.
Just the same, there are valid grounds for concern in how the contemporary world may be too connected. Look no further than the mass loss of personal privacy within the chilling details of Cambridge Analytica’s alleged clandestine collection of data from Facebook users. Unfortunately, the connections we enjoy through social media can be compromised and exploited in increasingly nefarious ways.
How about online marketing tools that infuse brand advertising into every corner of someone’s online browsing experience? Is that too much connectedness? Maybe yes, maybe no.
No doubt, it is a bit Big-Brother-is-watching and unsettling that people can be tracked by marketers on the web when products viewed on one site eerily materialize as ads on a completely unrelated site later visited. But context is everything: because when it is your favorite store following you around the web with pop-up ads you enjoy, you may welcome those targeted connections like a personal stylist, making spot-on suggestions for things you never realized you needed. Personalized advertising connections may save you time and positively customize your online shopping and browsing experience.
The kind of connectedness that technology affords in a no-longer-flat-but-not-completely-round world can bring both welcome benefits and unwanted intrusions. The key is to maximize the former and manage the latter. How to do this rests somewhere within a collaborative constellation of individual effort, private sector accountability, and regulatory presence that results in a win-win for us all.