May 13, 2010

Twitter is watching you.

Although Animal Farm is one of my favorite novels, George Orwell really annoyed me with 1984. Well, just kidding, I really liked that book too. I was just bitter that he picked my birth year to predict a totalitarian world where privacy and civil rights didn’t exist anywhere. I mean, I thought 1984 was great year for a baby. Anyway, he might have been onto something, just a decade or two too early.

Though mainly non-partisan when it comes to politics, it was hard not to see the door to our liberties close slightly with the Patriot Act of 2001. A statue that allowed the government to selectively access telephone, email, medical and financial records to protect our “freedom”, it made everyone wonder … is anything private anymore? Well, not really. And with the crazy technological boom of the past decade, it’s made the line between what is private and what is public not only blurry, but pretty much invisible.

Insert the social media craze. Whether searching for a job, investigating a crime, or just trying to spread a plethora of fast knowledge, outlets such as Facebook and Twitter have become catalysts for studying human behavior and examining an individual’s thoughts. Now some of these thoughts are being filed into public record … and studied.

Twitter and the Library of Congress announced on Wednesday, April 14 that every public tweet posted since Twitter’s inception in 2006 will be archived digitally by the federal library. According to an article on CNN, the Library of Congress communications director, Matt Raymond, was quoted as saying, “I’m no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data. And I’m certain we’ll learn things that none of us now can even possibly conceive.”

A.) I didn’t know people associated with Congress could use verbiage like “boggles” and b.) Though I understand Twitter was always designed to be a “public” domain, and Knowledge is Power, it’s hard to ignore the underlying Big Brother theme of gathering and studying information of the masses. Since the Library of Congress serves as a research arm to Congress, to me, it seems like just another watchful tool they want to use to keep tabs on the public and all our super, secret civilian knowledge.

Though still a little apprehensive about this recent file sharing merger, it also makes me wonder what useful knowledge can be gained from studying Twitter, aka the Crazed-Fan-Celebrity-Stalker site. I mean there are only so many trinkets of wisdom one can gather about Ryan Seacrest’s a millionth Idol update, or Miley Cyrus’ news about her latest boy toy. It’s us, un-cool non-celebrities that need to be careful. If your profile is public, your thoughts/messages/dreams are now officially documented and at the disposal of others. Your knowledge is our knowledge, right.

But on the bright side, regardless of who sends it out there, that is a lot of “knowledge” to take in. With more than 105 million registered accounts, Twitter receives approximately 55 million tweets every day. So happy observing government. For now, I’m staying Twitterfied and keeping my tweets to myself.

Contributed by: Keri Lynch

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