The social effect of databases

Internet facilitates the storage and exchange of text, images, sound, music, film, radio and live broadcasts. With over one billion usersnote 26 in 2006 (which is 15,7% of the world population) it has become deeply embedded in the communication processes of civil life: in entertainment, in business, in politics, in education, in health.

Even though 5,5 billion people do not have access today, the expectation is that it will develop into a utility like water, electricity and gas.note 27 If one wants to be successful it becomes more and more necessary to use the Internet, and the transaction facilities it offers. However, many people do not have access to the Internet and the distinction between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' seems to be more pronounced. The term 'digital divide'note 28 is used to emphasize the dynamic by which the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer because of the necessity for using the Internet to be successful. Not having access diminishes the chances of successfully participating in civil and business life in a global economy, which is more and more determined by the use of the Internet for the sharing of knowledge and the facilitation of communication. The 'digital divide' is not the subject of the research carried out here, even though it is a matter of great concern, also in the light of the UDHR. This study focuses on what happens when people use 'utilities' like the Internet.

It seems information and communication technologies have the capacity to store limitlessly and retrieve the stored information at high speed. The use of databases is all around us, even though we do not see them. The stored information has the capacity to affect our lives deeply. It is very difficult, particularly in modern societies, to get to know how our 'data-identity' develops: to know where it is stored, with what other information it is combined, who has access to our data, how the data are interpreted. At the same time the use of databases facilitates the easy sharing of knowledge. How databases affect human dignity, integrity and autonomy is an area that is hard to explore. Database structures and operations are often not shared, or are only accessible in the public domain in a fragmented way. Through the combining of data about health, travel, financial transactions, stored communication with others and more, the net around the autonomous human being, whose dignity is respected, is growing tighter and tighter. In the light of the UDHR, research about the social effect of databases „ and especially their designs, which include and exclude certain data retrievals, changes and additions - is more than necessary. However, this study focuses on the social interaction between people in order to understand the basic principles of presence design, which we need to enable us to begin formulating a critique about how databases are designed. Even without taking the designs into account, the use of certain databases in certain situations is already an issue of political struggle today.