If you could add or take away one component of the Internet as it exists now, what would it be?

Avatar Christopher Onoka
Member since November 14, 2013
  • 11 Posts
  • Age 23

Let me start by saying that the Internet is literally the greatest thing mankind has ever invented. One might say that this is hyperbole, but I lack the words to describe the importance of the internet in this day and age. Vital would not even come close to doing it justice. I am hard pressed to name something that you can’t do with the help of internet. And being a student at uni, one can safely say that a lot of my life revolves around the internet. As a disclosure, I will use several tech companies as my main examples throughout the article because these are the websites that we can associate with and that I personally use a lot.

For all the good the internet has to offer, there are two major pitfalls that I would like to highlight in this essay. The reasons I singled them out is that firstly, we are all aware of the hard truths yet we still ignore them and continue with our folly and secondly the fact that when I say we, I do not use this collective noun simply as a stylistic device, but because I am a victim to them as much as anybody.

Major issue number one is privacy. Over the course of the last year this issue has come to the foreground in the wake of scandals such as the NSA Snowden affair and the resulting furore that included tech companies coming together to “protect” their consumers. I have no doubt that their coming together was well-intentioned; I do however see the irony in the move, seeing as how these tech companies make their bread and butter from what they know about you. Many people are aware of the fact that Facebook, Google etc collect data about them, but this fact is simply acknowledged for a short moment and then forgotten.

For people that have no idea what I am talking about, let me oversimplify for the purpose of jolting you into action. The reason that Facebook, Google and a majority if not all websites are free is because you are the product. “What? How can I be the product?” you ask. “How is money is being made off of me?” Let’s think for a moment. That search for a new phone’s specifications on Google and then suddenly while surfing Facebook ads for mobile phones start appearing. While on YouTube suggested videos and ads start appearing for the same. Coincidence? I think not. While this occurrence has now become so common place that most people are smart enough to realise what’s going on or have even become desensitized, they don’t get worried by the fact that literally your every move funds big brother quest to improve ways to more effectively collect data on you. Most people are unaware that Facebook even has an option to download all the data they have on you. Surprising that without even personally knowing you, they can actually build a pretty accurate picture of you with all those “likes”. Hmm, it can’t be hard to find because they don’t want you to go looking for this information, can it? There must be a reason why opting out of ads is one of the hardest things to do on the interest, if it happens to work at all.

On the flipside, I have also seen several revamped privacy features and a general effort by the industry to disclose the fact that they collect data about you. Also new, or at least being highlighted, is the option to opt-out of ads or tracking. One development I am watching with interest is the “right to be forgotten” ruling that has nothing to do with ads definitely a step in the right direction regarding rights of the individual on the net.

This is not an effort to scare you off using the internet; it is simply meant to open your eyes to what is going on behind the scenes. It’s one thing if your government is spying on you, it’s another if you hand them all the information on a silver platter and then be surprised if details about you can be uncovered by a simple Google search of you that links to your Facebook profile and shows me all your pictures and likes in a matter of seconds. The younger demographic and perhaps many first time users does not seem that concerned with the tons of information they upload about themselves and this needs to change.

The second major issue I want to shed some light on is the amount of man hours wasted on the internet. Because this issue is not as pressing as the one that I devoted the bulk of my essay to, I do not need to expound in as great detail. I imagine a few of you are grinning right now thinking of the hours spent on 9gag, collegehumor or Instagram. While entertainment value on these sites is high, there is nothing worthwhile that is gained from them and they eat a lot of one’s time without one noticing it. A lot of time is spent clicking through photos or doing something equally mundane without any noticeable enrichment to your life. To tackle this issue one just needs to prioritise and avoid wasting valuable time.

As a conclusion I would like to equivocally state that the Internet is the most valuable resource we have today. This essay simply seeks to open your eyes on what’s happening behind the curtain and to urge you to be more conscious on what you share, “like” and even comment. I hope you keep the core statements of this essay in mind when you surf the internet in future. The two sources I have cited below make for some interesting reading and I encourage you to peruse them. Here’s to a more educated and vigilant internet user!

1 https://www.eff.org/who-has-your-back-2013

2 http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-opt-out-of-facebook-plan-to-sell-your-browser-data-2014-6

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