Surveillance & Privacy Discussion Questions

Joseph Turow & Nora Draper – Advertising’s New Surveillance Ecosystem

Do you think that this new system of categorization and demographics could help dissolve class barriers, or more strongly reinforce them? Is this the optimization of society of high tech discrimination?

How much do you think these new marketing tactics perpetuate the ‘echo chamber’ effect (ie, creating a bubble around you where you only see the things you want to see)? Do you think this contributes to the polarization of our country?

Do you support the surveillance techniques marketers use to try and precisely guess the products you want? Does it increase the quality of your web experience, or decrease it? How and why?

How do you feel about the mining and selling of your demographic information? Does having your email/name attached or not attached to it change your feeling about it?

How do you feel about the firm 33across analyzing your Facebook comments, likes and friend connections (in conjunction with past website visits, ect) to determine what to sell you? Does Facebook have an obligation to hide this data from them if you choose not to post publicly? Why or why not?

Raffi Khatchadourian – No Secrets: Julian Assange’s Mission for Total Transparency

Do you think that Wikileaks has become (especially with its influence on the election) or will become what is says it despises: an entity of power without accountability?

Do you think Wikileaks is a positive or negative institution? Is it necessary in all societies?

Do you think the media should be able to pay for the latest wikileak story in order to have the first rights to report it?

Is Wikileaks still justified if it puts certain people in danger (fatal in some cases)?

Jill Lepore – The Prism: Privacy in the Age of Publicity

In the article, Lepore presents a history of the ideas concerning secrecy and privacy. With little mention of the internet or other new media technologies, this article suggests that the current debate around the N.S.A surveillance scandal might best be examined by looking at our modern understanding of the concepts of secrecy and privacy. Do you think that this approach is useful? To what extent do you think that the particular technical aspects of new media technology are important to the current debate?

What does the author mean when she says that the twentieth century is “the age of public relations”? Do you agree that publicity is now more cherished than privacy? Is it reasonable for a person to expect that their activity on social media sites (or any activity on the internet) is private? Are there separate private and public spheres on the internet?

Why is privacy so revered today? Is a strong right to privacy a necessity for a well-functioning democracy? What are the non-political reasons as to why individual privacy is important?

Ithiel del Sola Pool – Ch 1: The Shadow Darkens in Technologies of Freedom

The chapter explains the trifurcated communication system in the U.S. of print, common carriers and broadcasting. Is new media more similar to one of these modes of communication than the others (or perhaps an equal mixture)? If so, does that have any implications for the way the first amendment should be applied to new media? According to which communication system is the internet currently

The author is very critical of federal regulations and licensing with regard to broadcasting and the application of broadcasting laws to new media. Can you think of any counter arguments as to why government regulation of new media is necessary or at least beneficial?

What do you think of Tocqueville’s prediction about “mild despotism” developing in democracies? Are “well-intentioned” tutelary policies a great threat to democracy? Can you think of any tutelary policies aimed at new media that are either currently in effect or have been purposed?



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