10 New Concepts for the Digital Frontier:

Data Assets Digital Identity —  No Digital Privacy —  The Cloud UbiquityConvergenceInstantinaityScope  — AnonymityDigital Images

Revolutions introduce new ideas that have had no previous place in our thinking.  They are too new to be taught in our  educational system, yet.  We are on the frontier of a digital revolution, in which the speed of changes is increasing.   Here are 10 concepts which have not yet been incorporated into our social framework.   We need to discuss and understand them better to make sure they become opportunities rather than dangers.  At the bottom of this page please post comments/replys that explore these evolving ideas.

Data are an asset —  An asset has monetary value.  Data have monetary value. This is a fundamental concept to the digital age.  Knowing what type of data we deal with is critical to knowing how to protect it and ourselves. Data can be lists of statistics, or names, or numbers; but when when correlated or put into a context, turn into information.   A list of names can be meaningless, but when put in the context of a business’ client names can be information worth millions to another business.   A zip code can be meaningless, but when linked to a date of birth and a person’s sex, can be used to identify the person and their address with 90% accuracy.   Some types of digitally important data are:

  • Personally Identifiable Information (PII) — the pieces of data about you that, when put together, provide a unique representation of you as used in financial, business or official situations.  There is no clear, nationally accepted legal definition of PII.  However, examples are your name, date of birth, social security number, address, family names, drivers license number,  or other datum that when put together can be used to uniquely identify you.
  • Personally meaningful — to you, but perhaps not to others.  Examples are family photographs, stories, documents, recipes or such.  Few would try to steal such information, but the emotional impact of losing it could be severe to an individual.
  • Intellectual property (IP) — ideas created by our minds as oppose to being created by our hands are considered intellectual property.  Examples of IP are books, songs, movies, inventions, ideas, artwork, photographs, cartoons.  If you buy a CD of songs you own that physical property, you can give it away or sell it again.  However, if you download a digital copy of that same CD from iTunes do you own it?  NO!  Read this for an explanation to this surprising answer: .  We need to know enough about intellectual property to protect ourselves and our children from legal consequences.

Digital Identity – Statistics about an individual are meaningless in isolation, however, when correlated together create a digital identity that essentially is that person.  Name, phone, address, date of birth, bank and credit card information are one level of digital identity, but when it is tied to Internet search patterns, web surfing patterns, purchases, facial recognition software, phone calling patterns, GPS location (via cell phone) it creates an entirely different level of intimate knowledge that has not been possible in the past.

No Digital Privacy — Once something is posted to the Internet it is there forever. Every kind of personal information is out on the Internet, either posted by marketers, real estate databases, government public databases, or by friends.  Nothing can be “deleted” because it is copied to so many different places it is always stored somewhere indefinitely.

The Cloud — this term has emerged in the last couple of years, though the concept has been around for as long as free email has.  “The Cloud” is collectively all the information stored on servers on the Internet.  Many “Cloud Providers” such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Salesforce, Rackspace, to name just a few of the better known, allow people to store files on their servers.  Cloud providers create huge data centers, acres in size, with thousands of servers dedicated to storing individual information.  The data centers can be anywhere in the world, but all are connected to the Internet and the information stored on them is instantly available from a home computer or a smart phone.  However, information stored in India, China or in other data centers located around the world are not subject to our country’s laws for data and privacy protection!  In addition, many personal agreements with cloud providers give the provider the rights to whatever data is stored on their servers.

Ubiquity —  computers are in devices we don’t think of as “computers”.  They are found everywhere from Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips in passports or library books or key cards, to automotive controls, to video game controllers, to pacemakers to utility meters, to refrigerators.  They are everywhere and increasingly being connected to the Internet to provide additional services.

Convergence — convergence is a buzz word that refers in two ways to the increasing insertion of computers into our lives.  Multiple functions are converging into one computer device and computer devices are being inserted into what previously were only physical devices.  A smartphone is an example of the first meaning of convergence–a phone, music player, TV, calculator, games, are now all available from one device.  Examples of the second meaning are computers being put in what were mechanical systems: like controlling automobile functions (they all used to be mechanical systems), computers in pace makers, in ovens, in watches, in virtually every aspect of our lives.  There is convergence between the physical and digital.  There are few purely mechanical/physical devices any more.

Instantinaity — Instantaneous Communication.  Often digital acquaintanceships and friendships are formed online in hours or days without meeting face to face, instead of by months or years of personal contact.  We are most comfortable with the type of communication we grew up with.  The current youngest generation is eschewing slow, old fashioned email and phone calls for immediate gratification of texting and videos, just as the Baby Boom generation replaced face to face meetings and postal letters with phone calls.   Facebook and other social media encourage instant disclosure of increasing quantities and varieties of personal information, much of which will be immediately available on the Internet to people they don’t yet know,  for the rest of their lives. 

Global Sphere  — Of the six to seven billion people on Earth, almost one third of them are on the Internet and that proportion is growing annually.  Not all of them are benign.  A child’s new “friend” may be on the other side of the world and, courtesy of Google Translator, not even speak English.  Is the new “friend” really in another school in town,  or is it a criminal in a country our laws can’t reach?

Anonymity and Isolation in communication: Isolation and anonymity reduce behavioral inhibitions.  Immediate reaction through body language, or facial expression is not there.  Behind a computer a person may type things they would not have if they could have seen the facial expression or body language of the recipient.    Nor is there an easy way to make sure the person at the other end of a website, instant message, text  or email is who they say they are.  Social norms have not yet been established and parents don’t have their own experience to draw from to teach positive and safe digital communication norms.  “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” 

Digital Images: new technology is making images searchable in a way they never were before.  A photo posted on the Internet can be indexed and correlated with other images that may have personal data associated with it, allowing identification of private data from a single anonymous photograph.  Visual intellectual property can be compared, indexed and retrieved in ways that have been previously impossible. 


5 Responses to Concepts

  1. William Rushon says:

    section on Convergence appears to be missing or unmarked.

  2. Lydia says:

    Remedied! Thanks for the heads up!

  3. Jean says:

    Intellectual Property (IP) was very informative. Good information all the way through.

  4. Elaine says:

    Cloud computing may save money but it is still not fully secure venue.

  5. CDMac says:

    I liked the, “On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog” cartoon.

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