Trust and New Technology: Do we ever disappear from the internet? – Guest Blog by 15 year old Martyna Adam

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On Wednesday 7th of May, I attended the third in the series of debates on trust at Free Word Centre, this time focusing on trust and new technology. Radio 1 DJ Gemma Cairney hosted the debate, and the whole evening kicked off with a spectacular poem from Deanna Rodger called ‘Tooth Fairy’.

The debate was split into two parts; firstly looking at the role of the law in relation to privacy, our rights, and what if any kind of surveillance is ‘acceptable’ when it being carried out in the name of security and protection? and secondly, security and privacy from an individual’s point of view. The first panellist to join Gemma was Emma Carr, who works at Big Brother Watch, which is a small civilities and privacy campaign group. As part of her work, Emma campaigns against intrusive CCTV cameras and questions the power of government and local businesses to access and keep hold of our personal and – what we think is – private information, and also campaigns to protect people’s rights and to educate people about what is really known about us and stored about us and what are rights are.

Emma Carr started off the first half of the debate with a statement that she firmly agrees with, that you have to have security and liberty working in conjunction with each other, and I agree with her. The questions that were bouncing around the room were whether the government should carry on hiding information about what it is that the MI6 is doing? Should the public have any insight as to what is going on, at least the headlines? Emma commented that at the moment it seems that the government is asking society to just trust them in the usage of our personal information, but she feels that ‘normal people’ should be kept informed about what the government is doing to protect us from terrorists and ‘bad people’ who might be out there.  We learned that the laws that were created in the UK with regards to privacy and protection for example when we enter our personal data online , were drawn up in 2000, and have not since been updated!

Personally, I feel that in order to be able to know what it is that the government is doing to keep me safe, I need to be presented clear facts, updated laws and legislation, especially about the topic of privacy. Our information is used, and society does not know when it becomes illegal to delve into somebody’s personal information too much. Since these laws, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have burst onto the scene and the capabilities of the technology behind smartphones and iPhones has developed hugely, and there is new software developing all the time! These sites and pieces of software have become much more sophisticated, therefore the laws created back in 2000, simply no longer protect us. The real question is whether we should just accept that many of our communications and our personal information might be looked at, and should we do something about it? Here’s are the voices of some students at Manchester University on whether online privacy matters to them?

Thoughts on privacy, security and personal data from Manchester University students "Thoughts on privacy, security and personal data from Manchester University students"

For the second part of the debate, two more panellists where introduced; Hannah Flynn who works for ChildLine, and Claudia Andrew, a young blogger. Hannah talked about how much data and information Childline collects. Due to the nature of Childline, it is very confidential, you don’t have to say who you are, and you do not use your email (you set a new one up with the website), and also the website doesn’t use cookies, so that someone else who uses the same computer doesn’t know that you have used Childline. That really demonstrated the power of technology for good use!

Claudia talked about cookies and personalised ads targeted at her being the reason she deleted her Facebook account. She felt weird being bombarded with ads everywhere and it didn’t fit into her online lifestyle. Gemma noted that we don’t always know the real extent of what we are giving away by clicking ‘Ok’ or not checking the privacy settings on our devices. By using Instagram and the world map feature, she realised that all the photos she posted from her house could be pinpointed on a map, for everyone to see, putting her in a possible vulnerable position. In fact, we all need to be careful, and should all be allowed to go offline for a while, without everyone knowing your address. However, as mentioned later by Deanna Rodger, “nothing ever dies on the Internet, and I believe that it is simply impossible to go ‘off the grid’. Your actions, tweets, statuses, credit card payments, whatever it may be, will always be kept somewhere on the system, and as scary as it sounds, someone is able to track you. I was able to share my opinion and findings that actually teenagers don’t realise the consequences and possible dangers of the internet, but when I asked if they trust the internet? people answered with a ‘no’ even though ironically, they are teenagers who use the internet every day.

The debate was again finished off with another poem from Deanna Rodger called ‘iPhone,’ which was about an emotional break up and the need to trust the ex-partner to not post anything online. The overall message of the debate was simply to be careful about what it is that you post online.

By Martyna Adam Year 10 Student at RSA Whitley Academy

For a podcast of the debate and more information, go to Trust and New Technology youth debate 

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