OK the title is a bit click-baitey, but I don’t think it’s entirely ridiculous.
I love teaching, I really do. I love the challenge of making things interesting to young people and seeing the satisfaction they derive from understanding something. With technology, however, I get a little more irritated.
Technology can be a hugely powerful tool - I know first hand. I remember building my first computer from old parts with a friend. I remember nearly frying the motherboard due to my own incompetence. I remember the pain of the electric shock I received from going at my Playstation with a screwdriver to see how it worked (always unplug your electronics before working on them folks…). It was the point where my efforts reached a level of success I could accept that keep me going towards the next challenge. I wonder how many other people remember their first experiences on the internet. I was blown away by Encarta CDs, so the idea that you could just type in a topic you were interested in into a search engine and have it send you free information was mind-blowing!
The problem back then is that it was hard. There was a pretty steep learning curve if you wanted to use the internet. You had to have a rudimentary understanding of how to use a computer. You had to understand how to dial up. You had to understand how and where to save files. Live chat was possible…but where did you go? There really were not so many options and those that did exist were pretty impenetrable for most users.
Enter the corporations.
Sometime after the beginning of the new millennium it dawned on tech savvy developers that there was a huge market for these new technologies, but access was tough. Additionally, servers cost money! It was all well and good renting an online service to someone through a subscription, but they were unlikely to buy anyway if access was difficult. The big turning point was when companies like Google realised that they could offer services for free to customers…in exchange for customers data. This was then combined with usable interfaces meant that these free services were easy. The data harvested could then be monetised by selling to advertisers desperate to understand how people behaved and spent their cash in this new type of marketplace.
While certainly not the first of its kind, Facebook is a great example of this approach. Users flocked to give Facebook their photos, explain what they were doing, check-in their location and generally hand over hugely private information. Facebook soon realised that the real money was to be made not from ads on the website, but by tracking what users did on the site. But why stop there? Facebook is one of the largest digital trackers in the world. It’s software can be found embedded in thousands of websites…tracking your every click, every word you type and even how long you spend looking at certain items on screen. This all contributes to a larger profile the company holds on you. Let’s hope that all this data is kept securely…
Except it so often isn’t kept securely. A quick web search for significant data breaches will give easy insight into the colossal amount of personal data which companies following this model have leaked.
The feeling of having technology working for you is very powerful and liberating. However, in the case of companies like Google it is a lie. Teams have designed this software to be as easy as possible to use so that people will use it. In return they can harvest data and sell it to advertisers. Is the convenience really worth the lack of security? The companies hope that it will be.
So, in the case of Google…Stop teaching children to use Google technologies!
Use Duckduckgo or another search engine that doesn’t track you!
I suspect that privacy and breaking free of the corporate offerings will be a feature of many of my posts. Will it change anything? I suspect not, but perhaps I can introduce people to alternatives.