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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

Category: Privacy
November 2, 2013 at 8:03 PM

Four digital divides: Where do you stand?

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Maybe you’ve heard of the “digital divide.”

It’s a term coined in the ’90s to refer to the mostly socioeconomic gap between people who can access information technologies and those who can’t. The concept gave thinkers and policymakers a grasp on a new problem: For more people to prosper, the digital divide would need to be closed.

I’ve been thinking about digital divides a lot lately, but rarely in this traditional sense. Tech has come a long way in 20 years, and it’s raised all kinds of sticky new issues. It’s made me think: If we take a fresh look at what divides us in our use of tech, we might get a better grip on whether we’re headed somewhere we want to be.

So here goes: I think there are four digital divides that matter. As we consider them, ask yourself: Where am i on these divides? And do they all demand to be resolved, or in some ways, protected?

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Comments | More in Code, Column, Conversation, Education, Identity, People, Privacy, Security, Tech Devotion

September 7, 2013 at 8:24 PM

Are wallets on their way out?

Is this goodbye? (Photo: Mónica Guzmán)

Is this goodbye? (Photo: Mónica Guzmán)

Last week, for the first time ever, I walked into a store and bought something with nothing.

I was at the shoe counter at Nordstrom, a pair of Under Armour sneakers boxed and ready to go. I’d forgotten my Nordstrom notes — coupons the store mails customers who use its credit card — and asked the sales associate to look them up. He did.

“Do you want to buy this with your Nordstrom card?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, opening my wallet.

“Don’t bother,” he said, looking at his screen and pressing a button. “You’re all set.”

Back home, I pulled out my wallet and looked inside. There was my license, the credit card I didn’t need, a bunch of business cards and gift cards I forgot I had and, tucked in the back, some stray $1 bills I didn’t remember putting there.

It’s hard to imagine a world without cash. It’s harder to imagine a world without wallets. But the way things are going, you have to wonder if we’re destined to lose both.

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Comments | More in Column, Disruption, Habits, Money, Privacy, Retail, Seattle

November 17, 2012 at 8:00 PM

Seattle’s ‘creepy cameraman’ questions our comfort with being watched

At first, University of Washington professor Odai Johnson thought it was some art student’s prank.

One day last summer, right in the middle of class, a young man opened the door, stuck in a camera and began filming.

Johnson asked him to leave. He refused. Johnson closed the door on him. He re-entered. All the while, Johnson’s drama students looked unsure and nervous, frozen in a state of unease.

“I confronted the man and told him his actions were an intrusion into our space, that he had no permission to insert himself and his camera and take whatever images he was gathering for whatever uses pleased him,”  Johnson told me over email. He “never stated his reasons, never asked for cooperation or permission. Just pointed and aimed and shot.”

You can see the whole exchange yourself on YouTube, where the cameraman — whoever he is — has posted video of this and other, similar confrontations with unwilling subjects around Seattle. A shopper leaving a store by Almvig’s. A man on his cellphone outside a University Village Starbucks. A cab driver who, taking a wild guess as to why a camera is in his face, blurts, “I’m white! I’m not an African driver!”

When asked what he’s doing, the cameraman says he’s “taking a video.” When asked why, he says, “Why not?” When told he doesn’t have permission, he says, “Oh, OK” and, to his subjects’ confusion, irritation and rage, keeps filming.

It’s after the few times the cameraman decides to elaborate that you get a sense he’s trying to make a point: You’re on camera inside the grocery store, inside office buildings, and you don’t seem to mind. What, really, is the difference?

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Comments | More in Column, Privacy

June 12, 2012 at 6:26 PM

Blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn: Which personal site captures your identity best?

I’ve been writing online for a while now, and when I quote or mention people in stories, I like to link their names to a public site where readers can go to learn more about them when I can. It gives readers a way to see what they’re about, and it gives the people I’m quoting visibility they appreciate.

Today I realized that about as long as I’ve been doing this, I’ve been more or less guessing which of a growing assortment of public pages associated with just one person is the best one to link to for each story — when I miss a chance to ask, that is. I go through a process to make the pick, and it usually depends on the context of the story, but I’ve never stopped to check it.

So today I asked people on Twitter and Facebook: If you’re mentioned or quoted in a story, what link would you prefer the writer share?

The answers, I realized, do more than provide a check on my own process (I’m not too far off). They say a little bit about which sites users of two top social media sites trust as their best ambassadors.

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Comments | More in Identity, Privacy, Social | Topics: Identity

June 11, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Poll: What should be the minimum age to join Facebook?

You have to be a certain height to get on carnival rides. Should you have to be a certain age to get on Facebook?

Thirteen is already a legal age for joining that and other social sites, according to a federal law that requires sites get parental consent before collecting personal information from kids. But if Facebook finds a way to comply with it, rather than ban preteens – as it’s said it wants to — that legal age, the only standard we really have, could fade.

Would you want to replace it?

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Comments | More in Privacy, Social

June 4, 2012 at 10:42 AM

Will we ever stop worrying about privacy online? Thoughts from a Microsoft researcher

Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd (Photo: danah.org)

For years now, privacy has been one of the biggest, baddest and most enduring headaches of the digital era.

That’s no surprise at a time when so much technological progress is a race for more, faster and better ways to connect. But when we talk about our concerns for privacy, do we know what privacy actually means, and where it stands?

Senior Microsoft researcher and leading tech thinker Danah Boyd offered some interesting parameters at the DataEDGE conference in California last week. As Quentin Hardy of the New York Times summarized in a piece on BigData today:

Privacy is not a universal or timeless quality. It is redefined by who one is talking to, or by the expectations of the larger society. In some countries, a woman’s ankle is a private matter; in some times and places, sexual orientations away from the norm are deeply private, or publicly celebrated. Privacy, Ms. Boyd notes, is not the same as security or anonymity. It is an ability to have control over one’s definition within an environment that is fully understood. Something, arguably, no one has anymore. (Bold mine)

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Comments | More in Privacy