Did you know that Hamburg, Germany, has a Data Protection Commissioner? Well neither did I until I read about it a couple days ago. Many German citizens are now apparently concerned that their digital privacy could be at risk. It seems this all started last month when the messaging service WhatsApp announced that it would begin sharing some of its users’ online information with Facebook. The Data Protection Commissioner has ordered Facebook to delete all the information forwarded from WhatsApp on roughly 35 million German users. The basic issue in question is getting permission from WhatsApp’s users before connecting their account to Facebook. This has become the condition set by Hamburg’s Data Protection Commissioner.
I am sure there will be many fascinating debates and legal battles in the future focusing on this issue of digital privacy. I am equally intrigued with the notion of digital privacy. Is this something that is distinct from my basic right to personal privacy in the broadest sense? Or do we forfeit our privacy rights when share personal information on any social media site? My position is that we have the right to control the extent to which our personal information is shared on any online forum. To put it another way, we do have a right to digital privacy.
We are obviously living in a new world of information sharing and communicating in a wide variety of digital and traditional formats. Whatever we wish to share, and how it is shared, should always remain our personal choice.
Well maybe Tim Berners-Lee really did invent the Internet after all. Sorry Al Gore, but it looks like Mr. Beeners-Lee may become the most famous and richest early Internet pioneer. At least you still have that Nobel Peace Prize for “An Inconvenient Truth.” But enough about ancient history, let’s talk about 1-Click online shopping. Berners-Lee and hundreds of millions online shoppers have successfully lobbied the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to streamline online payments. A concept, I am sure, that we will all come to love. Particularly if you enjoy staying home, and/or spend all or most of your day online wherever you are.
More than half of online purchases now happen on mobile phones, and many more would probably happen if the online checkout process was simplified. Only forty percent of the customers who start filling a shopping cart online finish their transactions. The W3C has managed to bring in about forty of the biggest players in online commerce. PayPal and Amazon are two of the most notable holdouts. Both have gained business and fees with more streamlined checkout processes. Same old story: no one wants to wait in the checkout line whether online or in the store.
In this brave new world, your fingers will truly do the “walking,” as they used to say in the old Yellow Pages ads. Only you will not have to “walk” very far. Just 1-Click away.
Or loosely translated, means that the U.S. Congress may soon be enacting legislation that will ensure freedom of speech in an increasingly online economy. As Americans we have come to cherish this freedom as a birthright that entitles us to express our thoughts and opinions in a very open environment (some legal limitations still do exist with respect to slander or crowd incitement). In an attempt to limit any negative commentary about their products or business practices, some companies have made customers sign non-disparagement clauses and then sued if a bad review showed up.
Sponsors of this legislation say that fair reviews are important to building the strength of the “sharing economy” that allows consumers to exchange information about products, services and ideas. Whatever happened to the old “complaint department?” My suggestion here is that we try a little more face-to-face interaction, or even a phone call, to help businesses and customers resolve any complaints or issues around products or service. Going online to express dissatisfaction, or writing lengthy negative emails, may be very satisfying or empowering to the aggrieved consumer, but let’s try a little person-to-person engagement first
I hope I am not being too naive here, and maybe people just don’t want to spend the time it may take to resolve legitimate complaints. You will always have these online tools, and available legal resources, at your disposal if needed. Let’s not simply believe that our expanded outreach on the Internet will help us resolve all our grievances.
No more need to try on shoes and make decisions about which ones you like. Not to mention testing them for comfort and how they look on your foot, or with your desired fashion look. Listen up you men too. Go online, baby! It’s all about “mass customization” and saving yourself the trip to the shoe store or the shopping mall just to browse at your leisure, and maybe spend some time with the masses (family and friends too) as they look for the latest or the least expensive prices they can find. I think I may be getting too nostalgic here, because shopping for anything these days has evolved into a predominantly online experience.
For many shoppers, it may be an exclusive online experience that allows them to spend more leisure time to do whatever other activities they may be interested in. Ironically, that might mean spending more time online doing other “things.” Social media seems to be replacing “socializing” in the traditional sense of spending time with friends and family outside of the work environment. Now what does all of this have to do with buying shoes? I think it is just a very graphic example of how we don’t have to engage with another person(s) in making a purchase for a basic commodity that everyone needs. Technology has made this possible, creating more options for the consumer searching for the right shoes for different uses and different occasions. But some people have more choices of shoes than they will ever need. Do you think Imelda Marcos (widow of deceased Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos) really needs more than a thosand pairs of shoes. I don’t think she ever has, or ever will go online to buy a pair.
True confession: I used to sell women’s shoes. I worked part-time on Saturdays during my college days. I was never as successful as the full-time staff, who really seemed to read customers’ preferences much better than I. So you really don’t have to worry about salesmanship anymore. Who needs a sales person? Just go online and customize whatever you want.
It sounded like a great idea at the time and maybe it still is. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s technology plan to provide free access to the Internet throughout the boroughs of New York has run into some unsavory results. Let’s just say that LinkNYC has attracted many users who see unlimited opportunities to indulge their private (illegal?) obsessions at the city’s expense. You can now access you favorite online resources for drugs, alcohol and pornography, and it’s all free at your local LinkNYC kiosk. As Frank Sinatra used to croon, “Start spreading the news . . . “
Well, in this case, the news about LinkNYC will be changing very rapidly. The Mayor and his administrative officials now find themselves in the role of censors and overseers who will now have to modify and possibly monitor the usage of these kiosks. The president of the Garment District Alliance, a business group in Manhattan, declared that the kiosks have created a really unfortunate and deplorable condition. She also added that when something has an outcome that you completely weren’t anticipating, then you have to go back and reconsider. Now who wouldn’t agree with that?
Maybe you would have to get a license of some kind with a unique password that would grant you access? Wow, what a bureacratic nightmare or boon that would be, depending on your perspective, in a city of eight million plus people. Talk about you unintended consequences!
As Maine goes, so goes the nation. Or at least we can hope so. Since this is an election year, I thought this might get your attention. The State of Maine, under Governor Angus King (now Senator) was one of the first States to require that computers be made part of public schools’ educational teaching and learning resources. See Maine Learning Technology Initiative began in 2002. Now nearly fifteen years later, many education and community activists are advocating for a broader initiative that would connect a a wider variety of Mainers across the State. Connecting institutions like libraries and parks is key to Intenet access for people with nowhere else to turn.
As recently reported in a national study, many low-income household are “smart-phone” dependent, making them more likely to suspend or cancel service because of financial problems. “And smartphones are less than ideal when it comes to filling out job applications or writing cover letters.” So the promise of connectivity for all Americans must be expanded to include more public institutions beyond our schools. Many of our citizens have nowhere else to turn.
Our public “anchor” institutions are the key. “Immediate action” by the Federal Communicatioms Commissiom and advocacy by other allied governmental and non-governmental organizations are the keys. This action remains long overdue.
My apologies, but I will not be postimg any updates this week due to some pressing time priorities. I will return next Monday, September 19th, on regular M-W-F schedule. Thanks for understanding.
One more time. Last month a new book was published on Amazon as well as other online book publishing formats. I authored one of the essays in this book: “Changed During the Sixties.” The book’s title is “Turning Points: Discovering Meaning and Passion in Turbulent Times.” I hope you will enjoy reading these essays about personal and professional transitions made during this time.
The first Labor Day parade occurred Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City. The workers’ unions chose the first Monday in September because it was halfway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving. The idea spread across the country, and some states designated Labor Day as a holiday before the federal holiday was created.
Happy Labor Day!
Last month a new book was published on Amazon as well as other online book publishing formats. I authored one of the essays in this book: “Changed During the Sixties.” The book’s title is “Turning Points: Discovering Meaning and Passion in Turbulent Times.” I hope you will enjoy reading these essays about personal and professional transitions made during this time.
I will resume my weekly postings on a regular M-W-F basis next week, on September 12.