Monday, February 13, 2012

Internet Freedom: can privacy be ensured?

On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog. Or at least, that’s how it used to be. With the rise of social networks like Facebook and Google+ the age of internet anonymity is quickly becoming extinct. People are voluntarily sharing personal information through these websites more and more each day. Although it seems relatively harmless, sharing one’s likes and dislikes in exchange for user-targeted ads, it’s just the start of a new era in online communication.

What if the government issued a centralized ID login system for the internet much like the required driver’s license to drive a car? This would allow them to keep tabs on all of your internet activity, ensuring that dogs wont be able to pass as humans. We run the risk of sacrificing our personal freedom & right to privacy in favor of corporate advertisements. Cookies, Flash cookies, and zombie cookies collect user information and sell it to others; similarly, search engine logs help to improve searches and also target their (eg. Google) advertising results. Some companies/sites allow users to opt out of being tracked; however, if you don't know who they are, that's not going to happen. Further, many sites don't function properly unless the user accepts cookies, some opt-outs don't work as promised, and others are only temporary.

What if we crafted a constitution of internet rights, similar to our actual constitution, ensuring our rights to privacy online? In the book I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did author Lori Andrews proposes such a constitution. This “Social Network Constitution,” comprised of just ten articles, ensures the user’s “right to connect” meaning that “no government shall abridge the right to connect, nor shall a government monitor exchanges over the Internet or code them as to sources or content.” It also ensures that “each individual shall have control over his or her image from a social network, including over the image created by data aggregation.” Although it seems a bit extreme as of now with bills like SOPA surfacing our right to the internet is threaten and must be ensured.

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