I'm attending the Politics Online Conference today and tomorrow, and there was an interesting discussion during the opening session titled "Pervasive Politics" that Joe Mansour blogged about at TechRepublican.com. The session focused on how we as individuals will be bombarded with political information everywhere we go — not just online or through traditional media.  Think about political ads on your cell phone…

However, the discussion took an interesting turn when the Digital Divide came up.  Traditionally we think about access to computers when this issues arises, but the panelists discussed more than one divide.  

Futurist Adam Greenfield talked about while improvements in technology have and will enable us to access more information, they also enable us to filter the information that we consume more as well.  Essentially we can eventually filter out information that doesn't confirm our world view, which is scary.  He mentioned that there was some study a few years ago that showed that liberals and conservatives ordered vastly different books from Amazon.  At the same time members of each group read from more or less the same set of books as their peers; thus, they weren't looking for different viewpoints in their Amazon book orders.  If this is happening with books, what about these groups' online and news consumption habits?  A lack of common information sources only divides us even more, which is no good.

Jonathan Taplin of the Annenberg School for Communication at USC brought up another digital divide.  As a panelist his main focus during the session was about individuals' rights to prevent organizations from collecting data from them so that they can shield themselves from the onslaught of targeted political and other types of information thrown at them.  Of those who have access to the Internet, some will lack the ability to keep their data private and avoid much of the pervasive politics discussed during the session.  To me the one of the most pressing issues of this digital divide is how those who keep their data private can or cannot protect that information.  Will they more likely suffer from identity theft and similar crimes?

I'm glad that these digital divide issues were discussed at this conference.  Events like these can easily focus on tools and strategies, but it is also important to keep in mind the bigger picture involving technology — its impact on individuals and their privacy.