Communications and Media

Do You Have Control of Your Technology

Everyone you know has a cell phone and computer. Many have other gadgets designed to make life easier, faster, and more fun. But who is in control of your technology? Is it you? Or is technology controlling you?

Google's cell phone that controls what you say in text messages. This phone has stirred some controversy about technology and self-control.

The Censoring Cell Phone

Within the past few months there has been a lot of buzz about the Nexus One cell phone launched by Google. One feature of the phone didn't get that much attention at the time: the "voice-to-text" feature that censors certain four-letter words.

How does it work? It filters the salty four-letter words, showing only the first letter and then uses the # sign for the remaining letters. Google says it's not trying to clean up your act for you. Instead, Google explains, this feature was meant to prevent situations where spoken words are mistranslated and mistakenly show up as offensive words in text.

The feature can't be turned on or off, which would be a nice feature. Maybe someday an on-off switch will be added, with a "censor off" displayed to warn you to speak clearly and cleanly.

Watch What You Say

In the heat of anger, it's a lot easier to send an angry message via e-mail or text. In the old days, it took awhile to write a letter and mail it, and that left time to cool off and rethink the consequences before sending a furious message to someone.

Now, with the click of a "Send" button, a message is gone, not erasable, and maybe not retractable. Even a text message, like a voice mail or e-mail, can be captured and replayed or printed to anyone who may care to view it.

If you're in a court case, or are in one in the future for child custody, a wrongful termination, or a contract dispute, a hastily sent message could come back to haunt you. It could also have devastating impact on the strength of your case. Even if you can explain it, the words are out there, and the judge or jury will draw their own conclusions.

If a jury decides the case, there could be a chance that the judge won't allow them to see or hear your text, voice mail, or e-mail. Your opponent's lawyer will have to prove' it's authentic and not altered.

Other court cases, such as child custody ones, are decided by a judge and not a jury. The judge might be more likely to consider your message as a factor in the case. Even a top-notch lawyer can't completely erase the impact of a message once it's put before the judge's eyes.

The Time and Attention Drain of Technology

Much has been said about the new anti-texting laws, often called "Distracted Driving" laws, now in effect in many states. "Sexting," or sending inappropriate photos via text message or cell phone, has also caused a new wave of criminal offenses linked to technology.

Not only your use of technology, but the amount of time you spend captivated by an electronic device, can lead to serious consequences. If you're battling for child custody or even vying for a prized job or promotion, you may be out of the running if it looks like you're a slave to your technology.

Many employers search Facebook, MySpace and blogs to see if you've put yourself out there in an unpleasant or unstable way. A potential employer, teacher or friend who sees you texting during a theatre performance, lecture or presentation can form a negative impression of you.

Remember that whether you let technology control you can have a long-term impact that you might never be able to delete from view.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can items on my Facebook page be used in court against me?
  • Doesn't Google's Nexus One censoring feature violate my First Amendment rights to free speech?
  • I think I have an addiction to computers/video games. Is there any place I can turn to for help?
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