Twitter announced last year that it would start tracking users’ Internet browsing habits to better recommend people to follow.
In May, details about the National Security Agency’s Internet security surveillance programs revealed just how much information is available about American individuals.
This June, Facebook announced a bug with one of its programs that inadvertently compromised the contact information of six million Facebook users.
Oddly enough, all of these scandals, news stories and technological surprises have a common factor of two digits: zeros and ones. But if you don’t understand binary code, that’s OK, because I don’t either. Maybe that is just our problem.
As we continue to become a culture more reliant on technology, there are countless ways for information to be kept, stored, shared and exposed. With each innovation and stride in technology, we are nearing a world that speaks a language or, in this case, a code unlike any other. Unless individuals take responsibility for trying to learn or understand the language nearly every electronic device speaks, humans are only going to continue to be shocked by the capabilities of technology.
People continue to grow more upset by insufficient privacy settings and become shaken over what they see after Googling their own name because as innovation increases, their computer literacy decreases. As long as citizens remain unable to directly communicate with technology, they will have no choice but to trust the very authorities that are making the headlines over information indignities.
Throughout history, humans have often been challenged to restore individual responsibility when it comes to ethics or driving etiquette. Individuals in this century should be called to take responsibility not only for the information they release about themselves, but in understanding how their information is encrypted and shared. And, more importantly, how corporations and governments alike have learned to harness it for their own benefit.
As it goes, history repeats itself and there was a similar situations several centuries ago. Before the Guttenberg press was invented and Bibles were more readily available, the only way the public had access to the Bible was through the priest. The priest not only had the only Bible in his respective area, but remained the only one to translate it to the masses in a language they could understand. As a result, the people only heard what the priest wanted them to hear and only knew to act how he told them to act, rather than how the Bible actually instructed. In essence, they were cheated out of their money and salvation.
In the same way that the language of the Bible was misused, the digital language is going to be misunderstood and therefore misused. Additionally, individuals are being cheated out of their rights to privacy and personal information.
We could blindly leave the language up to the engineers in Silicon Valley and allow them to translate everything for us. We could leave it up to the IT majors to be the only ones literate in this binary century. But maybe the best way to reduce ignorance is to become a participant in the language unfolding before us.
Explore the inside of a computer program. Investigate how a website is made. Take a coding class. We don’t have to be able to speak in zeroes and ones, but we should be able to talk to our computers before they start talking for us.