Privacy – there is more to it

I got recently a mail from a colleague from a place where I worked for some time during my professional existence – it had been sent to colleagues and some others, being concerned with data security issues in connection with dropbox. This mail provoked some wider contextualisation from my side which I sent as reply – this is reproduced in the following.

 

Thank you …, good to hear from you – though in ways not the best things.
Though personally I am not sooooo concerned in some way (the experience of having been permanently surveyed when I lived in West Germany at least in the 60s, and 70s and having faced some of the consequences of the 72-“administrative decree known as Berufsverbot did have a somewhat numbing effect) we are surely facing a frightening development: not least as personal data are used by war mongers, by business sectors for the war of consumerist terror and by individuals and groups who hack into personal e-mail accounts, using them for sending SPAM. There is however another dimension to all this which may – and I think should – require a minute of thought.

You see here an article under the heading
EU Citizen Science Initiative Asks Us All To Do Our Part
in the journal research*EU results magazine 35, page 17 f. – looking at the date mentioned at the end of the article it seems to be obsolete. However, the question is not so much about this specific initiative. The point is that we are increasingly – and uncritically – justifying with our research approaches without considering their ambiguity. In particular, we are in many cases making ourselves to string puppets, eager to collect data, getting more descriptive research done etc. while at the same time fading out the actual use of the overall research or of the data. This goes far beyond the personal sensitive stuff of staff, students etc. I discussed issues around this recently, participating in a conference against militarism and war where relevant issues had been tabled not least in connection with so-called double use patterns of technologies like drones (BTW: cheap offers for private use, already from some “good stuff” available for about 400 Euro).

Keeping things short, there is also from this side the need to develop more critical strategies – the “more” as matter of quality: more fundamental, more principal and accepting in more serious ways our role as educators instead of seeing the work we do as providers of “pure” knowledge and skills. Looking at this, the shocking part is not only starting when it comes to extremes like the development in Hungary (where direct government intervention in teaching is “reasonably” common). The shocking part is not only starting when it comes to developments where (as in Lithuania) a social policy department is now renamed as department for social technology. The really dangerous part is where we are not critically taking up our responsibility and remain stuck in the cocoons of individualist reseachers, unwilling and unabled (sorry, the term should exist, against Microsoft’s will) to collaborate in a sound and integrated and radical way.
Sure, part of it is that we cannot change the situation as individuals though we have to change the individuals in order to change the situation. And part of it being the ambiguity of working towards a process of change itself: Apparently we are fighting for “the social” as individuals.  Sure, all this includes the challenge that we have to get off the pedestals that are still characterising academia: as we chanted in the late 60s

Under the gowns / Is the musty odour of a thousand years

(see another potential abuser of data processing – wikipedia, here in German on the slogan and in English on the context the context)

All this is, of course, not least linked the the loss of readiness to think of contradictions as driving force of development – already the notion of dialectical and historical materialism is whipped out, even in “progressive” thinking, unfit for being squeezed into slide-thinking of presentations which are always not least self-presentations. In this context, I hope that the science shop (as it had been called those times) is developing in a direction which is not moving and moved further against the intention which I have had when I co-initialised the work.
All the best and enjoy the weekend – camminare insieme 😉
Peter

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