Privacy, Apples and President Washington

This week in media and news has been a doozy.

In class, we talked about regulations and ethical issues surrounding the internet, which we all know now, encompasses more than just a computer connected to an ISP (internet service provider).

The death of the Supreme Court justice broke online. I personally, got my good old push notification from BBC News and then shortly after, from the New York Times. Then my Twitter feed started filling up about conspiracy theories and what exactly was “a natural death.”

Then came the news that Apple CEO Tim Cook would appeal the court order issued allowing the FBI to gain access to the iPhone of terrorist Syed Farook Rizwan, citing privacy issues and setting precedence.

What timing.

It’s not enough that the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court passes away unexpectedly, let’s throw in a major controversial face off on privacy between Federal law enforcement and the maker of the most popular smartphone in the world. Cook, so far, is steadfast is his defense of privacy, but let’s be honest, he has to be…in order to save his product. Apple, and the rest of Silicon Valley for that matter, have had many opportunities to defend privacy yet did not. Most notably, when Edward Snowden leaked how U.S. citizens were under surveillance. So we have Apple set to appeal the decision of the judge issuing the court order, questioning an age old law called the All Writs Act of 1789 (a law that was passed by the very first United States Congress and signed into law by President George Washington) that could go all the way to the Supreme Court. A Court that right now is in flux, with an even number of justices and a battle royale that is shaping up between conservatives, the current president and presidential candidates publicly calling for delays in appointing a new justice to the court. Were the appeal process of Apple to get fast tracked, would the Supreme Court even hear the case, or kick it back to the appellate courts?

It’s not often that something of this magnitude comes along and brings pause to consider what exactly we use these devices for nowadays and to exactly how much privacy are we entitled.

Debates, social media and television

As I write this week’s blog reflection, I am “second screening” the Democratic Debate on PBS. Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff managed to incorporate questions from social media without the result looking like a circus. The graphics were a simple lower third that indicated the question to which the candidates were responding to at any given time. The stage was simple, clean lines and colors. No props needed, unlike the Republican Debate held at the Reagan Library on CNN (Reagan’s Air force One). As I watch and rewind, thanks to my TiVo, I find myself listening more attentively than I have in previous debates, Republican or Democratic, and I have come to the conclusion that presentation makes or breaks communicating a message. This is where radio and television have the advantage over social media.

Think back to the previous debates of both parties. CNN with the aforementioned Air force One, Fox News with their flashy stage mimicking their high energy newscasts, CBS with it’s Democratic debate, CNN with their second debate in Utah and finally PBS with their understated set design even keeping moderators Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff in subdued lighting so as to focus attention on the candidates.Fox FacebookGOPCBS Dem

CNN Tea Party/Republican Debate


Taking note of this, I could not help think about how news is presented on social media and how television seems to be relinquishing it’s advantage of presentation by seeming to be taking a page from online outlets in how to present news and information—fast and furious.

Linguist and American University professor Naomi Baron makes the case that technology has changed the way humans read, write, speak and listen. She is not wrong. Busier set designs keep the short attention span of viewers, reliance on culling questions for candidates from sites such as Facebook or Twitter instead of listening and the art of follow up questions seems to be dead. These are just some examples of how traditional media (television) has adapted to the rise of social media. Instead of debates of substantive questions, answers and moderators, it is now a clash of egos and celebrity journalists akin to The Hunger Games. Oh, Stephen Colbert beat me to it!

Well, at least we still have PBS.

The Branding of YOU

Until I began graduate school, I never thought about social media. I was using it like everyone else, or because I had to for work, but I never thought about it in terms of converging media. Or user generated content. Or even considered that we now live in a digital culture. None of these ideas came to fruition for me until we discussed The Conversation Prism (TCP).

Today, at the center of our digital culture is one person: YOU

You and your own brand and how do you sell yourself to the world. And we call millennials the selfish generation!

I could take the easy way and talk about a certain reality show family that are experts at social media use and are able to consistently stay relevant, but I would rather talk about average people. If you took a look at the above link to the TCP you will now realise that social media is more than just cat videos on YouTube or your Facebook friends. From sales and marketing to human resources, social media needs one key ingredient: YOUr data. When used responsibly, this data gets mined by marketers, advertisers and businesses so they can email, post to you sites or show up in your Google searches and convince you to use them, buy them or just “like” them. Pretty innocuous, right? Like getting junk snail mail back in the day, except now it comes right into your device of choice. What happens when it’s not so innocuous? With all this information out there, much of it personal, what happens when something goes wrong?

In class, we went through not-so-heavily-used social media sites, like Quora, Yelp and  Pinterest just to name a few. Then the next day was the story of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell a user of Facebook, and Kik; a messenger app for the smartphone. After coming off of a fun class discussion of how great and informative social media is and can bring YOU to the world, this story hit me like a ton of bricks. Mostly because this 13-year-old not only had a liver transplant when she was an infant but she also survived lymphoma. I could only wonder what role social media played in the demise of this often described loving and friendly girl.

User generated content is the new commerce of today’s world. For most of us it’s too many ads or solicitations. But for a growing number of people, user generated content is the new commerce for predators, stalkers and thieves. Perhaps the next step in the convergence of media and communications is reigning in the World Wide Web.