Transparency Theft

As we look at the dramatic rise in the use of social media technology via every possible entity; one recognizes the existence and opportunity for information exchange beyond imagination. Therein lie the questions: Are we cognizant of all the implications of this sharing? How trustworthy is our fellow man? How much risk can we personally assume or tolerate in exchange for social fellowship and entertainment?
Clearly one notes that persons “openly share more intimate details of their lives online every day, and they are flocking to social networks and uploading and/or viewing homemade videos by the millions. Ubiquitous computing is diffusing into everyday life. Much of what goes on in daily life is more visible—more transparent—and personal data of every variety is being put on display, tracked, tagged, and added to databases” (Imagining the Internet).
Simultaneously ads run daily on the risks of identity theft, and how critically important it is to protect oneself from the abuses of this deceit. If identity theft is the ‘unauthorized’ collection and use of personal information, usually for criminal purposes, does that mean that flagrant divulging of personal information can be construed as authorization for use? Is there an implied authorization to peruse, publicize, and utilize blogs and facepages for uses beyond simply reading? Every year, thousands of people are victims of identity theft as technology simplifies connections between companies, consumers and social entities. This broad dissemination of information, gives access to all levels of personal integrity.
The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. The repair of the trickery may cost hundreds of dollars, not to speak of the damage to reputation or credit records. Job opportunities, education, housing, or cars loans may be forfeited because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, victims may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit (Identity Theft Protection). Though this speaks primarily of financial issues, what about the social issues, triggered by all too familiar disclosures of sensitive material, once displayed and unable to be retracted? The disclosures made in youth, follow into adulthood. Youth do not perceive harms which a more mature adult might recognize. Who will prey upon these errors in judgment? Might those seeking to capitalize on these fumbles be foiled due to a more forgiving and understanding society; a new culture that recognizes the transparency and openness as a cleansing and confessing, where repentance is automatically assumed accepted? Will there be mechanisms developed where information, once posted, may be corrected or even erased?
Not likely – as with word of mouth, words once spoken are impossible to unspeak. Some persons suggest that this movement in transparency is an unstoppable force that has positives (influencing people to live lives in which integrity and forgiveness are more likely), and negatives (making everyone vulnerable, and bad things will happen because of it). The concept of “privacy” is changing, it is becoming scarce, threatened by emerging innovations. Tracking and databasing will be pervasive, reputation maintenance and repair may not be obligatory nor even possible. Some people will create multiple digital identities to hide behind; some people will withdraw. (Imagining the Internet).
Others contend that the ever popular transparency has nothing to do with either integrity or forgiveness — it is more closely aligned with exhibitionism. They state there is no reason to suppose that it will evolve into a vehicle for any responsible actions; alluding to the innate character of man, as an enemy to God. One then contends that instead of promoting interpersonal cooperation and coordination this transparency will give rise to exploitative/manipulative behaviors on both ends.
Certainly one must acknowledge that the internet community is very broad, engaging diverse cultures and worldviews. To assume that there is a global level of morality, let alone a community level of morality, would be naïve. The optimist suggests that our culture will shift into a dulled listening mode, more careful to not talk about or judge what they do see or hear. There also is the assumption that transparency heightens individual integrity and forgiveness; thinking that as people’s lives have become more transparent, they will become more responsible for their own actions and more forgiving of the sometimes-unethical pasts of others (Imagining the Internet).. Though this might be applicable to the dark ages of limited technology, I contend that it is unrealistically hopeful in view of the global indiscriminant personal information sharing and the egocentric, immoral majority.

Imagining the Internet (n.d.). Retrieved July 2, 2013, from http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/expertsurveys/2008survey/internet_and_privacy_identity_2020.xhtml
Identity Theft Protection. (n.d.). Retrieved July 2, 2013, from http://find-person-by-social-security-number.identitytheftiea.com/