The past few years have been quite tumultuous for the fate of information transparency and privacy over the internet. Organizations and individuals like Wikileaks and Edward Snowden have manifested as as champions of the populace as veritable whistleblowers, alerting the masses of activities that their governments commit and obfuscate from the public eye. On the other end, the denizens of the internet are also fighting to keep the average Joe and Jane’s personal information away from prying, profit-oriented eyes; proposed legislation such as the SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA are demystified and revealed to the public as laws that will do more harm than good.
It doesn’t help that the United States government seems very determined on spying on its citizens, and just about everyone else, supposedly in the name of security and fending off terroristic threats both from within and outside the country. Spying on potential perpetrators would be somewhat justifiable, but to conduct surveillance on the country’s allies (Germany, France, UK, etc.) could be considered over-the-top.
The end-result of all this spycraft, paranoia, and mistrust is a progressive strangling of our information highways, making the transfer of information all the more restrictive for the rest of us. Some countries, for fear of their information being pilfered by the US and other known (and unknown) entities that participate in information espionage, might even resort to gravely restricting their citizens’ access of the internet (see Great Firewall of China).
This all-spanning paranoia isn’t healthy for our country and the rest of the globe, and it is definitely going to destroy the very things that make the Internet the most powerful tool humanity has ever created. Is there hope for our digital Eden to remain fast and free, despite all of these hindrances?
The Giants Are On Our Side
Let’s get it straight: big corporations still have their bottom line as their primary concern, but this doesn’t mean their interests have to conflict with the concerns of its customers. For every RIAA or somesuch organization that aims to reduce the common consumer’s power over the data they purchase, there are companies that see that being on the side of the people has its benefits.
Internet companies like Google and Facebook, while they may have had their own tussles with issues on customer information privacy, have been generally supportive of the idea that the Internet remain free and for everyone. These companies rely on people being confident enough to use the Internet and entrust the companies with their information, so it would pretty much be financial suicide not to side with the common internet-using man and woman on this.
The Internet Is Still Growing
This extensive super-network of information is still experiencing a lot of growth, particularly in developing countries that are experiencing internet penetration at a relatively slower pace. As it stands, only a third of the world is online. With more data centers and internet backbones being established, as well as advanced data center management software to handle the massive number of machines and bandwidth, cyberspace can only grow more expansive.
The more people enter this global network, the more voices join the conversation and the more it will naturally gravitate towards what the people want out of the service. No longer is the Internet just a haven for the technologically savvy and the big-time brokers of information; the overarching goal is for it to be a space that all of humanity can inhabit, in addition to the physical space they inhabit.
More communication between people (ideally) begets more understanding, and that is the kind of thing that unites peoples and stops wars. Somewhat ironically, that understanding could also push the fact that while sharing information with each other is important, there are bits of information that should remain sacrosanct, only to be shared with the permission of the owner of said information.
Technology Is Also Evolving
All forms of technology are neutral, by design. For any piece of technology to do good (or ill), it must be wielded by someone with the will to do either. Just as there are more advanced technologies that can be utilized to compromise people’s right to privacy online, the same technology can also be utilized to protect said privacy.
With the many advancements in cloud computing, data encryption, and various forms of anonymization technology, the internet can still be a relatively safe space for exploring data without giving away all of your private information.
About the Author
Aida Evans is a dedicated denizen of the internet. She likes reading and writing articles and stories that promote freedom of information, benevolent and beneficial use of cutting edge technology, and people of all orientations and origins getting along.