I have got nothing to hide
It’s a phase I hear a lot. Too much in fact. A phrase that makes me recoil inside and want to respond ‘if you only knew what I knew’. Well now you can.
This is going to be a journey of me sharing the things I see and know and try to bring a perspective from the ‘other side’. I am going to be deliberately questioning, deliberately controversial, and deliberately forthright. I am going to play the part of the keen technologist eager for change and the average man eager to not, the avid consumer eager for change and the average marketer eager to not. It’s a mix of parodies that is as confusing as it is clear. I want to unpack this with you.
But this is not just my journey, neither is it just about me assimilating information. I want you to become an active participant. Many of the things I have learned in technological advances recently have been in people catching something and then pointing me in new directions; sharing inside information, personal opinions or forcing the rest of us to defend ours into a more rounded argument. To that I scream from the roof tops, ‘bring it on!’ One thing I have learned so far is there is no overall master plan, certainly not in the human sphere. I am not convinced one individual, organisation or company has some overall handle any more then I am entirely convinced Hitler began with the thought ‘lets kill everyone who doesn’t fit in’ – it was just a series of twists and turns that were manipulated en-route. I believe the same is happening here and now. Not all advancements are good, and neither are they inherently evil. Media is there to promote a message; it is the author of that message where the morality lies.
I do want my life to be easier. I want to have one remote for everything. I want my car to put the mirror back to MY position when I get back in it after someone else has been fiddling. I like it when the local bar man says ‘the usual?’. I also want and am happy talk or hear about things that interest me and will wear their tee-shirts or post in their blog. I like familiarity and routine, sometimes. Yet it equally gets on my goat when I go to buy a shirt and when I pay for it I am then asked my address by a jumped up teenager, who gets riled when I question why or if I plainly refuse – confused as to which button to press next. I get as annoyed as you when double glazing salesmen or mobile phone operators phone me up at ridiculous hours to tout their wares. I hate the fact that the TV ads go up for 3 minutes every 15 when I am trying to watch TV, and more so when trying to watch 24 – so much so I refuse to watch it and will seek an alternative method of delivery. No I am not sympathetic to waiters of restaurants who add 12.5% to my bill as a restaurant stealth tax which the waiter themselves in fact see little of, when they then want to take my credit card out of sight instead of bringing a machine to my table… I too have had friends who have had their accounts cleared by cloned cards, thanks.
Are you getting me? Are you seeing the confusion here? Shred everything for fear of identity theft or tell the world in a personal PR exercise on Facebook? We live in constant dilemma.
The fact is there are things we do in our virtual lives that are vastly different to real life. My mother will not give her credit card online, but will happily type her card detail to the ‘hole in the wall’ or read out the entire numbers to a kid the other end of a phone when paying for a holiday. Which actually is more secure? People will happily flirt and tease by text or online, things they would be too embarrassed or even horrified to do in person. Which is more moral?
The web is not so much an extension of our lives, but often an extension of our ego – or perhaps the very threat to it? In the last ten years or so I have already lived through both.
In 2007, $10B was spent on advertising technology between Google, Microsoft and AOL. Yes that is a ten with nine noughts, signalling a final turn away from the scaremongering fear the dotcom crash brought. Ask yourself why? What could and will this advertising technology mean? We have learned and matured, but the same issues are still there, and the same commercial gain is there to be had – Information is power – but now we have a business model to back up the speculation. I know because I am the one pushing the boundaries and justifying it. I am also aware I have a responsibility. I simply can not allow my grand-children to turn to me in my ripe old age and say ‘It’s you grandpa – you created SkyNet Systems!’
The first half of 2007 saw that same $10B figure being spent on online advertising in the US alone. It is predicted that the advertising on web TV will reach the same figure within 3-4 years. This isn’t something that’s going to go away, it is something that is gong to escalate and permeate into each of our lives and every channel I consume my media in – it’s going to get smarter and more relevant and more persistent. The annoying pop-up advert may well be the least of your irritations. Advertising is big business, but there is a lot of wastage and in our eagerness for recycling, so the same principle applies in the eyes of the marketers – what if I could connect with the people who want to talk with me directly and retarget them? Will this technology somehow reduce my advertising bill and increase my profit? Probably by about the same percentage as email reduced the amount of paper in the office, but we will get to that…
“In order to become more effective with advertising, we need to know a little more about you – probably a lot more than you are currently comfortable with.”
When you get home, you close the curtains and lock the doors, you feel safe… secure. You can talk about your boss or that friend who is irritating in relative confidence that you share a mutual trust with the listening ear. Things you would not say if that boss or that friend was in the same room. That is called privacy.Yet every time I send a text, an email or am on the phone or walking through Soho, London and have a similar conversation, we are not alone. It is in fact no longer private. We are being watched and recorded and monitored – for security reasons against terrorists or other threats the government will decide are detrimental to the country’s overall well being or perhaps my own – or for more sublime advertising reasons to make more profits in the fat cat shareholders product when they match their product to my ‘conversation’. Do I mind? After all I have ‘nothing to hide’, right? That’s until your boss or partner gets riled with something seemingly innocent on Facebook. Suddenly you start to look for the virtual curtains.
There is something here that is wrong, something that is running away with itself. Something that seems dangerously out of control, whilst we listen to the hype of the media shouting the consumer is IN control, just look at web 2.0 and social networking for evidence alone that clearly we are not.
I don’t believe this ‘I am in control argument’. I am not sucked in. I can see the future because it’s a replication of the past. We humans just do not change, history will repeat itself. But in this sped up technological world, it will faster than you have any idea of and with more detrimental affects. Think, whilst someone was shooting down planes defending our country with the good ‘ole Spitfire – someone was about to unleash an atom bomb that would wipe out a city for years to come and change history as we know it. There was no turning back.
This is why we need to sound the air-raid siren here and now and ask deep questions that the Data Protection Act never even considered. Time has moved on and the Quangos won’t sort this out alone. Pandora’s box has indeed been opened. We are passing trust to a system for whose interest exactly? What could be done with this information is a lot more than mere advertising, a lot more then clear out my bank account, as if that was not bad enough. It’s the equivalent of sharing my heart and private thoughts to an unknown friend. Can I really trust them not to repeat what I said or to work in my interests? Well you are never going to become friends and gain trust unless you start somewhere I guess? Well we have… and marketers and governments alike are counting on us accepting it with the rhetoric of ‘I have nothing to hide’.
And I am wondering, underneath it all, beyond your public façade, if you really do have ‘nothing to hide?’ And I do mean ‘NOTHING’.
The discussion begins
Though grateful to the many colleagues, friends and family who continue push material in front of me, much of the questioning needed to be taken beyond the confines of my everyday situation. This pursuit in turn has taken me back into academia to bring a more structured framework to my thinking.
- Overview to the MA Creative Media Practice
- The Course Syllabus
- My Master Plan
- Suggested Reading
- Cross-Cultural Diversity in New Media
- History and Development of Graphic Design
- Glossary of terms used in Graphic Design
- Masters discussions Spread over the course of a couple of years, I revisited the historic origin’s of digital advertising, the present challenges and the next iterations. The findings of my studies are presented here for you to peruse.
- The ongoing blog The sheer relentlessness of human progress means the subject of consumer brand interaction with digital media can never be contained. The blog ‘nothing to hide’ is therefore my work is work in progress.