The gathering and use of information to help achieve personal and professional objectives has been a task executed by individuals and organizations from the beginning of time. However, with the advent of tools and technologies that can greatly accelerate this gathering/use of information, it is increasingly important that one considers not only the positive things that can be accomplished from the greater understanding derived from “increased information access”, but also considers the potential “dark side usage” of this “increased information access”.
One example of how massively organized information was used in a “dark manner” is elaborated on in detail in the book IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black.
Mankind barely noticed when the concept of massively organized information quietly emerged to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and a roadmap for group destruction. The unique igniting event was the most fateful day of the last century, January 30, 1933, the day Adolf Hitler came to power. Hitler and his hatred of the Jews was the ironic driving force behind this intellectual turning point. But his quest was greatly enhanced and energized by the ingenuity and craving for profit of a single American company and its legendary, autocratic chairman. That company was International Business Machines, and its chairman was Thomas J. Watson. (1)
On a societal level, there may be many checks and balances that help inhibit such a gross misuse of information in the future. However, as both information technology and legal technology professionals, it might be beneficial for each of us to be reminded of the potential misuse of technology to prevent the misuse of information on a micro-level (2).
Whether it be through the overt suppression of differing ideas, thoughts, and opinions or through the covert use of information/patterns gleaned from information analysis and used to control people and outcomes, what we accept or don’t accept today will certainly influence what we accept or don’t accept in the future. Because of this fact, we need to be on guard against the inappropriate use of information technology so we are not desensitized (3) on seemingly small issues by the “Dark Side of the Force”.
(1) Taken from IBM and the Holocaust. Edwin Black. (2009)
(2) Micro-Level = Individual or Organizational Level.
(3) Desensitized = To make emotionally insensitive or unresponsive, as by long exposure or repeated shocks. Free Dictionary. ( 2009)