What do you value more: your safety or your privacy? Essentially, this is the argument Michael Morris attempts to build through his emotional example of how horrific school shootings and other incidents could be avoided through data mining. He builds this thesis on the back of his statement that “universities must be prepared to use data mining to identify and mitigate the potential for tragedy.”
Like most, I started the article with the title, which is definitely very powerful. The idea of saving lives is always a step in the right direct in my opinion. As I began to read, Morris continued to pull me closer and closer to being totally on board with the idea. Several times he used the analogy of a “crystal ball” as being this omniscient safety blanket for all. These vivid heart-rending examples were what really drew me in. Morris relied heavily on the use of pathos, which is always a good idea for an argument. However, it did create bias that deterred me in more than one way. There were no examples of how this power could be abused, regulations that needed to be in place, or even how information could be misinterpreted. After all, there are no voice inflections over the internet and sarcasm is very hard to convey. Furthermore, for me, emotions alone are not a strong enough reason for the creation of more regulations.
I personally feel that desensitizing the public to agencies accessing personal information creates greater problems down the line. Slowly, our lives are already becoming more and more monitored. I do not believe that another layer is a step in the right direction. Also, by slowly implementing access to a plethora of our information, we further open ourselves up to people we could not even begin to imagine. While the average person would not be able to hop on the a school’s server and steal personal data, it is still a possibility that someone could. Apple was not even able to prevent their iCloud database from being compromised. So who is to say that we are really safe from data mining anywhere?
Both good and bad can be found in everything. I am sure a lot of good could come from data mining for public safety. In fact, I am sure it already exists to some extent and has prevented catastrophic events. However, I feel that once that door is publicly open, it is one that cannot be shut and will root too deep.