Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age

Article excerpt

Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age Bernard E. Harcourt. Cambridge: Harvard, 2015. 364 pp. $35.00

We are surveilled, monitored, controlled, harassed, and contacted by governments that want to protect, advertisers who want to seduce, and "friends" who need to converse, discuss, banter, and annoy. This business never lets up, day or night. We have become digital slaves to ubiquitous gadgetry and the browsers, search engines, websites, apps, lurkers, and cookies that control our destinies. Bernard Harcourt, in this frightening study, shows us that it is our own fault for capitulating but concomitantly indicates that online interaction is inevitable: There is "[n]o other way to reserve the hotel room or seat on the plane, to file the IRS form, to recall the library book, or to send money to our loved one in prison." Most of my loved ones avoided incarceration, but for the rest and almost anything else one might conjure, online interchange can easily be avoided. As is almost always the case, we sacrifice virtually everything on the altar of convenience. We have no real need for paying bills or depositing checks via a smartphone, and sending confidential and potentially harmful financial data to the IRS via the hackable Internet is just stupid, although almost everyone does it. Ultimately, Harcourt's point is that we must fight back, rage, against the (digital) machine.

Most Internet users- searchers, surfers, buyers, sellers, viewers, tweeters, and E-Z Passers, even loyalty carders, and everyone else - are aware of the costs and risks: the data is stored and the miners know to whom it belongs, which can paint a very individualized, personal picture; this is not anonymous big-data. If you use Facebook, the company tracks you on thousands of other sites. It aggregates and sells this information to those who then bother us with pleas to buy their junk. And the government, through the NSA, for example, works in conjunction with the private sector and also tracks in order to protect. And all of this occurs because we purposely expose and exhibit ourselves. The prescient saw this coming, more than 200 years ago, but Harcourt argues that analog Benthamite/Foucauldian, Kafkaesque, or Orwellian metaphors are inadequate to portray the "new [digital] architecture of power relations" that has arisen, one that will assuredly wreak havoc within democratic societies. …

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