The Caffeinated - Keywords

As Deborah Johnson, Priscilla Regan, and Kent Wayland discuss in their article "Campaign Disclosure, Privacy, and Transparency", the sites that regulate users' access to campaign data "are not like transparent glasshouses, but rather, a house of mirrors" (73). Like images in a mirror maze, they argue that data can be reflected, distorted, and projected in all sorts of unexpected ways. "Bouncing," for instance, is when information collected for one purpose is used for another purpose on another site. This may unwittingly reveal data about a user that was otherwise intended to remain private due to aggregating sites collecting otherwise innocuous data in a centralized place, like a reflection cast from a mirror in an unexpected place.

Highlighting and shading:
Continuing the "house of mirrors" metaphor, highlighting and shading occurs when some pieces of willingly disclosed information take on disproportionate importance while hiding other more relevant pieces of information. This may distort a person's online reputation and suggest relationships and affiliations that are not entirely accurate. Information collected about political donations, for example, may show up in search results years in the future, even if the donation was a one-time deal and the person in question may no longer be aligned with the political party they contributed to. But the fact that this old information can still show up in search results can result in a threat to privacy, particularly in cases like Dr. James Gardner. Gardner strives to remain politically neutral in the law classes he teaches, yet highlighted and shaded information in his web history prominently displays his alignment on the first page of Google, making a projection of true neutrality nearly impossible (74).

The internet has given transparency new meaning. Where transparency used apply more to governments or other organizations offering up selected information to whomever requested to see it in an effort to curb corruption and show people how they operate, transparency has now grown exponentially to mean making any information available, accessible, anywhere, anytime, to anyone – forever. On one hand, according to internet-centrists, transparency is a good thing and should be pursued tirelessly it will keep everyone accountable and honest; but on the other hand, according to the cautionary narrative, transparency may act as a double-edged sword, not only violating all kinds of privacy, but misrepresenting the truth that is purportedly is supposed to reveal. Transparency may also work in favor of those who are corrupt – for instance those who know how to “work the system” would be able to use “transparency rhetoric” by manipulating certain numbers and information that has been made “transparent” to show themselves in a positive light and gain the trust of those who champion transparency. Those who are less savvy but truly honest and open might be less adept at “working the system” and harmed by “transparent” information recast in a negative light. Morozov indicates there are different varieties of transparency and that it shouldn’t be treated as a singular organism of good – it is far more complex and subsequently should be treated in a much less enthusiastic manner and approached empirically. For Morozov, “the Internet” is not a solution to everything and neither is its “transparency” offspring.

A phrase coined by philosopher Bruno Latour that refers to “communication and the production of knowledge as relatively uncomplicated and frictionless affairs that could happen without mediators like databases and search engines” (84). Double-clicking something is to retrieve information via computer (seemingly effortlessly) and accepting the information presented to you as fair and accurate without any regards for the complex network and channels that information had to flow through to get to your screen. Where did the information originate? Who put it into the system? Why is this information available? What is the websites mission displaying and what is your purpose in seeking it? How does medium (computer, cellphone, tablet etc…) you are using impact the message? These are questions that help define the nature of “double-clicking” your way to a piece of information and leads to “bouncing” and “high-lighting and shading” mentioned above. The double-click can wreck the reputation of an otherwise honest and responsible person by conveying only a partial truth or it can boost the reputation of a corrupt and irresponsible person depending on what information has risen to the top of a search result. It can also work as advertised, bringing you correct information about exactly the thing you were searching for in a split second, championing the internet as a solution and making internet centrists quite happy. In another stab at transparency, Morozov insists that “information systems that mediate our access to campaign data are not like transparent glasshouse but, rather, more like house of mirrors” (84). Thus, double-clicking is the all-too-easy means by which unsuspecting and well-meaning information seekers step into the mine-field information availability (or misinformation availability).