As a person interested in research regarding the use of the Internet, and who believes in education through the use of digital devices, I have always tried to find positive aspects about the phenomenas created by our digital environment. I was born in 1983 and although I’m considered a Digital Native, I don’t necessarily consider myself “born” digital, and have the privilege of being able to reflect on what has changed since computers and digital devices have entered my life. I remember clearly the first time I ever saw a computer and how, initially, it always seemed to be related to video games. Then, I started using e-mails and, ultimately, chat-rooms. After that, my memory seems to get blurry, signalling around the time I started to view digital technology as a part of everyday life. By then, I felt all the information in the world could be reached through the Internet and a lot of useful things could come out of it.

When I think of dossiers, however, nothing positive seems to come to mind. I did a lot of research before deciding on how to write this post, trying to find arguments that could point to the benefits of having an extensive Digital Dossier. However, the search was not successful.

The first idea that came to my mind referred to a conversation I had once with a friend. By then, I was mentioning to her the fact that I always get bugged when I go buy something on Amazon.com. The website knows exactly what I might buy and how to make me spend money on things I didn’t even need. Interestingly, this friend of mine said that this was exactly what she loved about it. She didn’t have to keep searching for information on books: the website would offer her all she needed.

In his text “Surveillance in cyberspace: the Internet, personal data, and social control,” David Lyon writes: “The Internet was born in (and for) an era in which two cultures found themselves in tension – the culture of the free consumer and the culture of control, … consumption has become a central way of organizing society around the idea of free choice. But consumer management, in a delicioux paradox, attempts assiduously to guide our choices!”

When thinking of all the personal information I have spread on the Internet, all I can think of are security or privacy issues. For me to use services on the Internet, as I said before, I give free access to my personal information in exchange. This personal information is then used for different purposes: I receive credit cards I did not order from different banks, my personal data is sold to companies trying to sell me something (they keep calling me), people have access to personal information made available against my will, etc. None of these uses seem to have any benefit for me!

It seems Digital Dossiers have become a fact of life. Everything from the message I send on my cell phone, to the channels I watch on my digital TV, to the pictures I upload on my Flickr account: everything is tagged, creating a diffused map of who I am. What I ask, is for you to help me find a positive aspect on it. How can Digital Dossiers be used in a positive way, enhancing social relations and all the possible connections that may come out of it?

– André Valle

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