TechTalk: Accountability, technology, and You

Written by Amanda Loch on . Posted in Writing

Over the last year, we’ve discussed pivotal court cases (Net Neutrality, Julie Amero) the volatility of the Internet (the Google empire, online tiplines, wikipedia), the threat of Big Brother (Radio Frequency tracking, Digital Rights Management, thumbprinting for payment, MySpace and self-incrimination) and positive advances in technology (the One Laptop Per Child initiative, advances in auto tech). I hope these topics have provided you with a new insight to why technology is important beyond MySpace and e-mail.

Last week, I presented you with several reasons why it is crucial for every person to understand the basics of technology. No sooner had the issue gone to print than another (and perhaps most important) example surfaced. Incriminating e-mails that mysteriously disappeared (because they were deleted) between the President, Vice President Advisor Karl Rove, and other members of the Republican National Committee regarding the controversial firings of eight US attorneys.

By using the RNC e-mail server, the involved White House staffers were able to communicate without being recorded, deleting anything they wanted to without being noticed. The White House servers by comparison, save every e-mail eternally. Now correspondence has been called into question that has suddenly vanished. How convenient.

Can you really delete e-mails in this day and age? According to CNN, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont says, “They’ve gone through too many servers. They can’t say they’ve been lost. That’s like saying, ‘The dog ate my homework.'” Indeed, deleting e-mails out of your inbox hardly means they are gone. The recipient has a copy, and if they backed up their computer, it preserved a copy too. Computers often keep a cache (or hidden memory) of files and if any had been printed then there is a hard copy.

What repercussions (if any) will befall these officials remains unknown. But without an informed and involved public questioning the details, they may just get away with it. Although my stance throughout the year has been mixed as far as restrictions and laws in technology go, I do think it is important to have laws in place to keep something like this from happening again. We need accountability from our government and using tech errors (like disappearing e-mail) as a scapegoat is not acceptable.

If nothing else, thanks to the Patriot Act, they are reading our e-mails, so why can’t we read theirs? Or at least make sure they aren’t able to erase vital information, as incriminating as it may be.

The more you understand about technology, the better. Although a part of that is learning “technobabble,” in reality, our future rests upon the critical thinking about how and why we use the computers and electronics we use now and why. More importantly, how the little things happening today (in many cases flying below the radar, and as a result putting the public at a clear disadvantage) will change how we live tomorrow.

Don’t be intimidated, be educated. We won’t realize how much our ignorance costs until it’s too late.

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Amanda Loch

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