Every year, for the media studies programme that I have been teaching for the last decade or so, i try and set assignments that get students thinking. The course, in addition to the syllabus, has documentary viewing, reading of select articles and projects.
This year students had to read one of the following – V for Vendetta, 1984. Fahrenheit 451 – and discuss it’s relevance in the modern world in general, and India in particular.
Many students quoted ISIS propaganda, or Chinese censorship, or censorship in the middle east as examples. Also discussed were the two girls from Palghar who got arrested under the IT act, post their facebook post on mumbai shutting down after Bal Thackeray’s death. But, the majority of them spoke about Facebook and Google being able to track them, know their preferences and monitor what they do.
For them, it is less about government, because government is not a part of their lives. Except once in 5 years. But, google and FB are. The average 22 year spends increasingly larger chunks of time and energy online. They are pouring out their lives on these sites. And, now they are worried about what the faceless corporation knows, and can do with that knowledge.
I seriously get spooked out, when i search for a book on google (or a film or anything else) and when i access my gmail, an ad for that product pops up. I know i can disable it (i.e., not see it) but that data is still being collected and collated. Sooner or later, it will be used – most likely against your best interests. And no, going incognito is not going to help.
What was interesting is that this generation (mind you the sample size is small – one class in one college in one city) seems to find the giant, faceless corporation far scarier than the government