Friday, February 17, 2012

The Dogdays Are Over: The Fight for Internet Privacy

Big brother is no longer just watching you, he's also liking your status and retweeting your instagram. Gone are the days of internet privacy! Although people are voluntarily sharing personal information on the web we must be vigilant. Bills like SOPA/PIPA are just the beginning of upcoming legislation aimed to police/protect the internet. Why should we be concerned? Because everything from our Amazon purchases to Facebook messages will be under the watchful eye of the law.

But Taylor! Why are you so concerned? The only people who should worry are the cyber criminals and child pornographers! Wrong. My simple concern is this: we now have the largest accumulated wealth of knowledge known to man. From the millions of Wikipedia articles to the billions of Youtube videos man has never come close to this free exchange of ideas. Should we favor the interests of corporations and trash what may be the greatest library of media texts? I think not, but the corporate interests and their high-paid lobbyists would strongly disagree.

SOPA aims to police copyright infringement by attacking the website itself for unknowingly allowing a user to host "stolen" content. That's like shutting down a Walmart because one customer showed up high. Clearly there is some fault in this logic, as any rational person would hold the customer responsible and not the business. So the user himself/herself should be punished for any illegal activity online, with respects to the laws of warrant-based investigations. Yet websites like Amazon and Facebook use your private information for target advertisements and cache any information you've ever shared. This leads me to wonder: if private interests can get access to your information then what's stopping the government? Could private deals between these companies and the government undermine the requirements for a warrant?In the near future would web users be punished for visiting weed legalization websites? Will underaged kids get sent to juvenile court for viewing porn?

It all boils down to this: the advent of the internet took the public sphere out of the hands of media corporations and into the hands of individual citizens. This shifted the very meaning of democracy in America, freedom of press is now attainable on some level. But this is bigger than just freedom of press/speech, never before has it been easier to peacefully assemble/ protest. The news conglomerates and the US government have become close friends over the years and will do anything within their power to have the pendulum swing back in favor of large media conglomerates. SOPA is the beginning of this shift and with the FBI planning to monitor social networks it's only a matter of time before someone gets arrested for sharing a link on twitter. Internet privacy is dying, one day soon we'll all have universal web usernames.

If it doesn't scare you now, imagine if everything you do online is visible on your facebook wall. Like, everything.


  1. This is a very interesting topic and can go many different focuses. I think it would also be interesting to look at the way that users/consumers 'allow' this invasion of privacy by using free and trackable services. Would we be willing to pay for privacy? This article uses Google to see how our privacy is non-existant onine

  2. Taylor I really like your idea, it is very clear how passionate about the topic you are so I am excited to see what you do with the materials. For starters I really think you should focus a lot on your ideas about the single username/login for all internet accounts. I liken that possible outcome to the way social security was implemented in the early 20th century so maybe you could use that as some sort of a parallel to the implication of a unified online identity. Like I said you are passionate about proving SOPA as a bad idea but i think it would help your argument to incorporate what some positives about such policies might be down the road, especially in terms of niche advertising and personalization of internet materials for users. Just a thought but it might help solidify your argument in the end.