Black Mirror Angst and Rights in a Digital Age

Today, I experienced a Black Mirror moment which has finally galvanised me into taking action on an area I’m interested in, namely the rights of individuals and organisations in a digital age.

My Black Mirror came about as a result of a knock to the screen my work Macbook, which my wife will attest to the fact that I love it a little more than is probably healthy. Due to the screen being damaged, I had brought my personal laptop to work and spent the first 20 minutes of the day setting up a new work profile on the machine and configuring my various accounts with the help of the invaluable LastPass password manager.

Setting up the laptop triggered mixed feelings. On the one hand, I couldn’t help but marvel at the way services such as Dropbox and my Google account made it easy for me to quickly get up and running at work in a way that would have been inconceivable five years ago. But on the other, the experience of seeing my online-connected identity being re-constituted before my eyes  made me mildly uncomfortable. Just how much of my life had I voluntarily entrusted to internet companies in the name of convenience and connectivity?

It’s fair to say my feelings of unease were fairly mild and were soon replaced by more immediate concerns to do with getting work done and whether or not to order a pudding from the school canteen. Nonetheless, the experience brought home to me how deeply digital has become embedded in all aspects of our lives and why it is important to think about how the rights of individuals are protected in the digital age.

Fortunately, around the same time as I was having a Black Mirror moment, my Google provided email service helpfully provided me with a way of channelling digital angst. I received an email from the Open Rights Group (ORG for short), whose stated objective is to preserve and promote your rights in a digital age.

I’d originally signed up to ORG’s mailing list sometime last year after being impressed by their campaigns around copyright reform, particularly around format shifting and parody. In today’s email I was asked whether I’d be be interested in becoming a local organiser to help develop ORG’s presence in Birmingham. Spurred on by my pre-lunchtime ruminations (food definitely helped calm my mind), I decided to get off the sidelines and get involved with ORG’s campaigning work.

I don’t know yet whether I will be selected to become a local organiser for ORG but, whatever the future brings, I hope to get more involved with the issue of digital rights this year and turn my digital angst into something tangible.

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