The world today is more dependent on technology than ever. Over 90% of Americans today own a computerized gadget (Gahran, 2011). People receive email and text messages on cell phones, order fast food online, cars can park themselves, and even when we are driving, the traffic lights are controlled by a centralized computer system (Greenman, 1998). But what is all this access to technology doing to humans? What would we do if our high-tech gadgets failed us do to a wide-spread lack of power or cyber-related attack?
The fact is that people of become so dependent on technology that they aren’t prepared for service interruptions. With non-disaster related blackouts up 124% since the early 90’s (Patterson, 2010) and disruptive weather patterns on the rise, people should begin to take steps to break their dependence on technology, or at least have better planning in place when the things do go dark. We should also be more aware of what information is available about us online. The most damaging information is often information released willingly, with little regard for who is viewing it.
People are too dependent on technology related services for communication, internet commerce, and social media. Technology has had a huge effect on the way people communicate. Many people have traded the convenience of a wired phone in their homes in favor of only cellular phone service. In fact, a study in June 2010 showed that more than one in four homes only has cellular service, up from 13. 6 percent in 2007 (Blumberg, 2011). It’s not just urban areas that have seen in increase in cellular service, every state in the US experienced an increase (Blumberg, 2011).
Electing to only subscribe to cellular service is dangerous because cellular phones require frequent charging to function. Additionally, the cellular towers must have power to provide adequate coverage of the signal. Finally, in the event of an emergency, cellular signals can become overloaded. Last August when the East Coast experienced an earthquake, cellular service was disrupted in the DC area for as much as 20 minutes due to the overwhelmed relay stations (Goldman, 2011). Wired phone service doesn’t require power to operate.
Choosing to retain wired phone service is one way we can reduce our reliance on technology. You can’t write a paper about technology without mentioning the impact of the internet. For many of us, internet related technologies have forever changed how we work and play. The internet can bring vast amounts of information, entertainment, and conveniences to our fingertips. However, it can also bring unwanted guests in the form of cybercriminals and spammers. A computer virus disguised as or targeting one of these amenities could have serious effects on our personal finances and privacy.
Internet commerce has changed the landscape of the business world. Amazon. com and Google have been become two of the most powerful companies in the world, ranking #56 and #73 on the 2012 list of the Fortune 500, but how? Amazon uses the internet to link sellers to consumers, taking a small percentage of the transaction in the process (Kay). When this process is repeated millions of times a day, profits roll in. Google on the other hand generates most of its revenue through advertising (Google). The Amazon’s and Google’s become dangerous when crooks get involved.
With Amazon there are many fraud reports concerning both the buyers and sellers. Since Amazon is just the company that brings the parties together, they will investigate but are not liable for fraud. Some of Google’s ads have been unknowingly infected with malware and computer viruses (Mills, 2010). The perpetrators of the Amazon fraud and Google viruses have one goal; your personal information. Information gained from internet commerce transaction can be used to steal your identity. We need to demand that these retailers work harder to eradicate these crooks from penetrating their networks.
Social media has become the next big thing in the internet media revolution. People can give friends and family up to the minute updates on their activities and events. Ever look at a typical teenager’s Facebook page? It often reads like a book of their thoughts, ideas, and sensitive information. Allowing this type of access to our most private information could have personal ramifications for years. The internet’s memory is unlimited. What may be funny, interesting, or newsworthy today may not be interesting in the future.
In fact, what we say and post online has become the items that make up our “online footprint” (Clark, 2009). This online footprint is being used by potential employers as a background check type tactic to gain access to people’s private information. Users of social media sites are basically giving their personal information away. A recent study found that 13% of Facebook users and 92% of Twitter users connect with anyone who initiates a connection request (Bradley, 2009). We need to be smarter about what we post and who we allow access to.
All users of social media must learn to educate themselves about the privacy policies of these social media outlets before they join and post information. As mentioned, people are too dependent on technology related services for communication, internet commerce, and social media. These technologies in particular have lowered our defenses to cyber criminals and make us less prepared if a true disaster strikes. We need to learn to use these technologies in the proper context and take the appropriate precautions to ensure that our lives are not adversely affected if technology fails us.