Rod Beckstrom proposes ways to reclaim control over our online selves. - Project Syndicate - 0 views
As the virtual world expands, so, too, do breaches of trust and misuse of personal data. Surveillance has increased public unease – and even paranoia – about state agencies. Private companies that trade in personal data have incited the launch of a “reclaim privacy” movement. As one delegate at a recent World Economic Forum debate, noted: “The more connected we have become, the more privacy we have given up.”
Now that our personal data have become such a valuable asset, companies are coming under increasing pressure to develop online business models that protect rather than exploit users’ private information. In particular, Internet users want to stop companies befuddling their customers with convoluted and legalistic service agreements in order to extract and sell their data.
Hyper-connectivity not only creates new commercial opportunities; it also changes the way ordinary people think about their lives. The so-called FoMo (fear of missing out) syndrome reflects the anxieties of a younger generation whose members feel compelled to capture instantly everything they do and see.
Ironically, this hyper-connectivity has increased our insularity, as we increasingly live through our electronic devices. Neuroscientists believe that this may even have altered how we now relate to one another in the real world.
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At the heart of this debate is the need to ensure that in a world where many, if not all, of the important details of our lives – including our relationships – exist in cyber-perpetuity, people retain, or reclaim, some level of control over their online selves. While the world of forgetting may have vanished, we can reshape the new one in a way that benefits rather than overwhelms us. Our overriding task is to construct a digital way of life that reinforces our existing sense of ethics and values, with security, trust, and fairness at its heart.