Just who was Philip Agre? Why is he still relevant, despite more than a decade incognito?
Why is he still relevant, despite more than a decade incognito?
It’s simple, before he went into self-chosen isolation in 2009, Agre forewarned how the internet and the growing use and influence of social media would make it easy to collect massive amounts of data on citizens.
I didn’t know who he was or how prescient his writing were until I read this Washington Post article
“Genuinely worrisome developments can seem ‘not so bad’ simply for lacking the overt horrors of Orwell’s dystopia,” wrote Agre, who has a doctorate in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an academic paper.
The outing of Priest Jeffrey Burill through personal data obtained through a third-party data-collection company (something else I didn’t know existed) is an example of this.
According to this Washington Post article,
The information originated from The Pillar
Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, former general secretary of the U.S. bishops’ conference, announced his resignation Tuesday, after The Pillar found evidence the priest engaged in serial sexual misconduct, while he held a critical oversight role in the Catholic Church’s response to the recent spate of sexual abuse and misconduct scandals.
The Pillar used information from the Grindr App and information from Burill’s cell phone, which you would think was private.
This isn’t about homosexuality or the mistaken concept that paedophiles are homosexual.
It’s about privacy.
I was born and raised a Catholic, but was drifting away from the Church because of its views on women, homosexuality among others.
The election of Pope Francis gave me and many like me hope.
His Ill Tutto Francisco should be a must-read for all people who have hope in the world. He has urged tech firms to take action
“It is now clear that they cannot consider themselves completely unaccountable vis-a-vis the services they provide for their customers he has said.
As an aside, my middle name is Francis, partially for the Saint and also for my paternal grandmother Frances Conatzer.
But back to Agre and his prediction on the dangers of data collection and its use and misuse.
He was a prophet whose wisdom was ignored in his time.
Now, we are seeing it come true.
He argued against the mass collection of our data and how it was going to be used and also that we didn’t really know about it.
Let’s be honest, I don't know how many times I’ve clicked on agree when I should have taken the time to read through the contents of the disclaimer, which in my opinion is written in smaller point size and scrunched together to discourage reading it.
Agre also issued an early warning of facial recognition technology. He also predicted our inability to recognize well-crafted disinformation.
Examples: Obama’s death panels; the association of the Democratic Party, which is middle of the road at best with Marxism.
I would be impressed by anybody who had read Marx, it’s a slog. Plus as The Clash sang, the industrialist Frederich Engels helped fund Marx.
What’s frightening is Agre was ignored, but now some are sounding his alarm again.
“I’m seeing things Phil wrote about in the ’90s being said today as though they’re new ideas,” said Christine Borgman, a professor of information studies at UCLA who helped recruit Agre for his professorship at the school.
Agre has left public life, according to his family he is still alive and doing well, seemingly avoiding the capture of his own data.
Some of Agre’s writings can be found here
This went on longer than I had planned, but this is an important topic and deserves more in-depth investigation. We owe it to Phil Agre to try and make a stand to protect our data before it gets worse.