Although it’s easy to joke about, behind Louis C.K.’s humor are important issues about technology.
With each new advent of technology, there are both advantages and risks. However, as time goes on, it feels as though our society focuses solely on the benefits technology offers.
Cloud storage refers to saving data to an off-site storage system maintained by a third party. That data is saved to a remote database which can be accessed by your computer via the Internet.
As Louis C.K. points out, “The way that they’re going to talk you into this is that you’re going to have a smaller device.”
Although he exaggerates what the size of an iPhone will be, in a sense, he’s right. The convenience of cloud storage is that one doesn’t need to carry around a physical storage device. No more external hard drives and USB cords. Also, people can access their data from any location that has Internet access, and don’t have to use the same computer to save and retrieve information.
As with much of technology, the benefits are concrete and can be laid out clearly. The risks, however, are becoming increasingly vague. Things like data tracking and government surveillance are discussed, but do little to hinder people’s use of technology.
Apple’s iCloud storage system, which was launched in 2011, now has over 320 million users. Much like other cloud storage services, Apple preaches the benefits. One example is “Find My Iphone”, which is a service that can locate your Iphone if you lose it. However, it can also be viewed as a tracking device that can be used to detect your location.
On their website, Apple leaves the consumer with the idea that, “iCloud takes care of everything for you. Just like that.” Or, as Louis C.K. puts it, “You don’t need your stuff. Just give it us and we’ll put it on the cloud.”
Apple is also sure to explain how “it keeps your personal information and data secure.” Again, like other cloud storage services, iCloud secures one’s data in an encrypted format to ensure it is “protected from unauthorized access.”
However, when one reads through the iCloud Terms and Conditions, it becomes evident that Apple can potentially decrypt and access all data stored on iCloud servers. Apple, not the user, defines and controls the encryption keys. Apple can “access, use, preserve and/or disclose your Account information and Content to law enforcement authorities whenever required or permitted by law.”
So, in a way, users are willfully handing over personal data, including photos and documents, to a service that has no guarantee of security.
The question is why?
Is it as simple as people being naive, as Louis C.K. suggests?
Do the benefits outweigh the risks for users?
Is privacy even a concern?
It would seem that the protection of privacy is not a priority for users. However, privacy is a difficult term to define. Its definition differs from person to person and depends on past experiences, interests, and a person’s behavior, among other factors. Some researchers suggest that “over time, regular use of social media without any major negative experiences may lessen their concerns about sharing information.” 1
In other words, as technology becomes a part of everyday life, it changes our society’s perception of privacy. Certain forms of self-disclosure become the norm, people become removed from the negative aspects, and as a result, people’s concern about privacy has only a small influence on actual online behavior.
It is important, though, for people to take this idea a step further and think about who controls technology and how that influences our view of it.
In “Search for the Great Community”, John Dewey suggests that technology has the potential to be an asset, but if society isn’t mature enough, some members are able to manipulate it. Technology that is not transparent, or “masked technology”, is what enables it to be controlled by a small percentage of the population.
Although Dewey is referring specifically to the Industrial Revolution, this idea of manipulation still holds true today. Technology, in my generation, is something that has been spoken about as a saviour; an all-inclusive way for people to connect and something that could be used as a check on those in power. In reality, technology is far from all-inclusive. It is controlled by corporations and those in power, who are able to track, control, and manipulate the way we use it.
As a result, many people tend to use it without fully understanding how it works or why it is necessary. Each new product comes with great benefits attached, but as a society, we’ve become less and less qualified to evaluate them. Our dependence on technology, coupled with our lack of understanding of it, increases with every generation.
For example, teenagers today have grown up knowing only of life with technology. Almost every aspect of their lives involves a screen. According to Pew Research Center, 78 percent of teens (12-17) now have a cell phone, and almost half of them (47 percent) own smartphones.2 Twenty-three percent of teens have a tablet computer. There are few moments in their day that don’t involve technology.
How is this affecting society?
The point that Louis C.K. brings up is a take on Dewey’s idea of habits. Habits, which are formed under the influence of the customs of the group, “bind us to orderly and established ways of action because they generate ease, skill and interest in things which we have grown used to.”3 These habits affect every action someone takes, and there becomes a fear of anything different.
Perhaps our society has developed the habit of blindly using technology, of just doing things because we can.
And habits are hard to break.
- http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Privacy-management-on-social-media.aspx ↩
- http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Teens-and-Tech.aspx ↩
- Dewey, John. “Search for The Great Community”, p.506 ↩