Posted by: Khatija on Apr 13, 2011
Whatever you choose to call it, stalking, creeping or research, Friday, 4 March 2011, was the day my ‘investigative journalist’ tendencies came to an end. I’d seen many applications similar to this but not as explicit. This was my ‘slap in the face.’ I mean, who wants to be that ex?
A recent surge of applications on facebook allowing active members to view anyone who checks their profile have sprung. Founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, followed by online newspapers, reported that applications such as Pro-Check and Profile-Tracker are all hoaxes.
The applications use the power of short and shocking statuses, facebook groups and pages to attract users. Unfortunately, the temptation to pry and boost our egos allows the creators of the application access to your profile, share your information and spam you in the future, as well as expose your profile to malware.
Although frivolous, my epiphany speaks to deeper issues of new media ethics which is the focus of my blog or “Blawg” as I prefer to call it. Media ethics centres its attention on the influence of digital technologies on normative culture.
New media changes the way people interact with one another. Gone are the days where we had to set a date, have face to face conversations in order to learn about each other. This can all be done from the privacy of your own room or even from your mobile phone. I can find out almost everything about someone else from the information available on their online profile if not privatised fully.
This in itself is a problem; any online profile is a creation of the self, people construct an image and an identity. We may scream “schizophrenia” when finding out that the person we’re friends with on facebook, the one we follow on twitter, the colleague on linked.in and the individual whose weekly blog posts we read is one and the same person. Then you ask, “How can an employer base his or her decision to hire or fire me on my online profile?”
Surveillance and concerns surrounding observation are some of the effects of new media. The information we put on any social networking site or online database becomes available for advertisers, big businesses and government to exploit. Ethical you ask? The debate is ongoing but based on a person’s “likes”, interests, age or movie interests, advertisers are able to target individuals and present other applications or products that they think the user would be attracted to. Governments are able to; firstly, speak to the citizens at a grass-roots level instead of appearing to be perched on a pedestal. Secondly, governments could use social networks to control the nation to track internet crime and terrorism.
The fact is that because of new media we are being watched, every call we make, every mouse-move, and every click is stored. I don’t remember consenting to such but that’s what comes with technological developments that allow for quick and easy access to information.
Privacy then also comes into play, as much as there are measures in place to ensure that only the information you want to be seen is seen, a distinction between the public and the private needs to be made. You can’t take a page out of your private diary and air it publicly.
As a Rhodes university journalism student studying a fourth year specialisation in new media, “Blawg” will discuss the impact of new media on social relations, labour and business. It will also look at the laws surrounding new media and the bodies in place that regulate the internet. I am particularly interested in the tensions between restrictions placed on new media in the interests of children, security and privacy and the constant struggle for freedom of expression and access to information. All issues that we'll analyse in depth. For now though, welcome to Blawg!