In his writing Googlization of Us, Siva Vaidhyanathan raises the example of the “Star Wars Kid” and suggests possible outcomes of mass surveillance mainly due to our dependence on Google. He argues that with such mass surveillance, combined with “our appetite for public humiliation of others”, “we are no longer in control of our public personas” because everyone is constantly monitoring each other through multiple“instruments of surveillance”.
Now that we give up more of our information online to companies such as Google and Facebook, our real persona is shaped based the tiny amount of information that we decide to release. Such information is valuable in knowing somebody online, but it is often abused since virtually everyone can access to that data once you release that information online.
Flaming of twitter is particularly a good example to explain such mass surveillance and concentrated fire. This summer, a college student in Nihon University (Japan) tweeted on how he cheated during the exams. He claims that he is a “professional cheater” and confessed that he was cheating in all classes he was taking. He then became the target of the 2channel textboard users (Cache for the thread: http://2chnull.info/r/news4vip/1310532248/in Japanese). His name was soon identified and his account in Mixi, the largest social network service in Japan, was brought to the public. Some of the 2channel users informed the university and the student had to hide himself by deleting his Twitter and Mixi accounts. It is unclear whether he was penalized; however, it is clear that the attack brought a, probably deserved in this case, devastating consequence onto the student’s life.
This incident succinctly exemplifies Vaidhyanathan’s claim that when everyone starts to put their data into one media, that will cause a turmoil. Most of the 2channel users involved in this flaming is probably irrelevant to the targeted student. The incident became so chaotic because of “our appetite for public humiliation of others” and because the information was released through Twitter, a multi-million user interface. A group of people that you think is completely out of your reach is never irrelevant. Mass surveillance is no more a regional phenomena, but universal. Of course, as one of the response points out, “an acquaintance that hates the student” might have started the thread. It is possible that a person makes a small mistake that will never happen again in his/her life, and yet being accused as an antisocial wrong-doer. Nonetheless, what we see is the surprisingly interconnected network of monitoring and accusation, a phenomenon that Vaidhyanathan describes. Such exploitation of others’ personal information has transformed interfaces such as Google and other social network services into a “fool spotter”, a nickname given to Twitter by 2channel users.