Anonymity of the Individual in the Information Society – Qualitative Changes in Interhuman Contacts

AUTHOR
Radoslaw Lukasiewicz

ABSTRACT

The aim of this article is to indicate some negative phenomena accompanying the creation and development of a global information society. They are connected with the anonymity of individuals who connect with others by means of a global computer network. This anonymity is caused by the specificity of contacts when using modern information and telecommunication technologies, such as the internet, software for electronic mail, or internet chats.

The negative side effects of the development of an information society can be characterized as a progressive dehumanization of interhuman contacts. More and more, popular opinion says that in the near future computerization will lead to the loosening or even loss of bonds between people. The general reason is the universality of computer and network usage. Very soon it may occur that almost every operation can be done without leaving the home. This would involve, for example, e-commerce, electronic banking or interactive television. As information and telecommunication technologies develop, their usage will become more and more comfortable and cheaper. They will be a perfect alternative for traditional activities. It is supposed that in the future, thanks to the development of virtual reality, it will not be necessary to leave on holidays. Such visions are promoted especially by science-fiction authors, but one can expect that in the future they will come true at least in part.

It is expected that in the future direct relations between people will be considerably limited due to the benefits of communication using telecommunication technologies. It is easier and more comfortable to write and send a message via e-mail than to meet someone personally. This type of interaction is preferred by many people, because it is considerably easier to hide one’s faults and complexes this way. The development of features for the application of personal contacts via the internet is improving the technical side of the process. This trend is helping to spontaneously create a global “computer society” that can be characterized by several specific and so far unprecedented features. The creation of such a “society” can also lead to the exclusion of some people from global information society. It affects people who do not have the opportunity to access modern technologies due to, for example, poor education or difficult economic situations.

Deceptions, by means of computer networks, may become a serious problem. Examples of such crimes were numerous in the course of the last few years. It is considerably easier to deceive somebody when not looking in his eyes than when having direct interaction with him. Besides, it is evident that many electronic crimes are committed by the very young. They treat these breaches of security as a good joke and do not realize what the results of their activities might be. First of all, however, the issue of the safety of economic transactions is still unsolved and it significantly impinges on the turnover of global electronic trade.

To prevent this negative phenomena it is necessary to start a number of activities on all levels – from regional and national to international. One such action should be a wide spread campaign making individuals aware of both the meaning of information technologies in human life as well as of the threats connected with it. Thanks to such an action the members of the global information society will be forced to look upon technology from different points of view. One should make society aware of the meaning of traditional communication methods such as conversation. It is essential to emphasize that modern technologies, despite their speed and comfort, destroy the personal character of interhuman relations and should be treated only as a supplement to direct contacts. Education in schools should also play a part in such a campaign.

In addition, it is necessary to take action to prevent or at least make difficult the crimes committed using global computer networks. This action should go in two directions. First it is necessary to build legal devices enabling the pursuit of the perpetrators of electronic crimes. Next, more and more advanced protections to prevent the crimes must be worked out. The latter has been realized for several years because institutions possessing top secret data realize that it is much more profitable to spend money on possibly efficient protections than to remove the negative results of loss or theft of data. However, the legal issues have not been solved. Criminals running illegal activities in the global computer network, in most cases, stay unpunished even if they are discovered. Modern technology creates perfect conditions to commit these crimes.

Taking the above mentioned activities guaranties at least partial prevention of the negative results of the anonymity of individuals in a global information society.

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