We have all heard of people and various digital activists arguing that no one is ever safe as long as they have shared their personal information and interests online. This is because the famous and leading browsers and search engines are reportedly spying on us and monitoring all our online activity. These vary from the social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to Google and other shopping websites. The above platforms use the information gathered as a result of our online activity to sell us everything as well as feeding us with biased political views.
To a large extent, this is true based on my personal experience on social media and shopping websites. For instance, there was a time I was shopping for a phone and as a result, visited online malls to search for one which met my requirements. Ever since, whenever I am online doing a completely different activity, there are adverts everywhere on the screen featuring phones and tablets. This, therefore, leads to the development of a firm belief that the various pieces of information I share online are usually being monitored and I am indirectly being led to things and information which is connected to my perceived interests. Therefore, it would be valid to argue that the various social media platforms and search engines usually track and monitor our online activities and use that information to sell us stuff and ideas. As a result, no one is safe.
Consequently, one is led to the aspect of digital dystopia. So, what is a digital dystopia? To start off, the term dystopia itself refers to societies or communities which are in possession of behavior and characteristics which are regarded as being undesirable or frightening. Dystopian communities have been featured in many fictional works of art and films which are in most cases are set in the future. These societies are in most cases represented by tyrannical governments as well as environmental meltdowns. In an overall outlook, this term is associated with dehumanization and a general decline of the society at large. Therefore, digital dystopia can now be used to refer to the above communities but this time dwelling entirely in the digital and online space.
The above online communities or societies engage in what is referred to as digital dystopia. The information regarding their presence is at most fictional, with little tangible evidence being in existence to support these claims and allegations. The better part of my knowledge stock regarding this topic has been shared by international “hacktivist” groups which always claim that my data is always being tracked. Furthermore, it is argued that social media platforms, specifically Facebook, usually leaks personal information of its users to various interest groups and that they often record every user’s phone conversations. However, as earlier mentioned, the validity of the above allegations is up to probing and questioning.
For instance, one of such allegations is directed towards the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica which is accused of illegally acquiring data and personal information of eighty-seven million Facebook users and using it for the Trump presidential campaign. This firm collected data from Facebook users by using the various online quizzes which are quite rampant on Facebook (Ars, Technica, 7). This digital dystopia introduced a loophole which enabled their application to harvest the data of the quiz taker as well as all of his or her friends, hence serving to explain how Cambridge Analytica digital dystopia was able to collect information of such a large number of people.
I have in the past taken the various quizzes on Facebook since the respective applications promise not to share your information. People always fall for the quiz trap since it is usually in the form of an entertaining idea and the application urges you to share the various results with your friends. By so doing, friends also click on the provided link and take the quiz themselves too. Upon the completion of the questionnaire, they too share their results with their friends, and the cycle goes on eventually reaching out to an immense multitude of people.
Upon the widespread popularity of the above Cambridge Analytica scandal, I have since shunned taking part in any online quizzes. Facebook itself claims it had put measures in place to prohibit any form of sharing or selling of the data of their users accrued in the manner above. However, Cambridge Analytica ignored this arrangement and proceeded to sell the data to be used by the Trump campaign and as a consequence closed down. Facebook owner and CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to the above scandal by stating that they have been working hard to understand how exactly the above happened and are putting measures in place to ensure that the same does not happen again.
Zuckerberg was honest enough to admit that they had made mistakes, but the silver lining was that they learned from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and put measures in place to safeguard the privacy and safety of their users. However, my personal opinion is just a statement aimed at saving face and that as a Facebook and other internet websites user, I am no longer willing to share my information which on my online endeavors. This is because, despite the various claims and assurances about user safety, digital dystopia communities can always find loopholes to exploit and outmaneuver the set safety measures.