Online Privacy For A More Humane Internet
In 2012, under house arrest, Julian Assange sent out a clear warning to the world: “The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen. The internet is a threat to human civilization.” Fast forward to ten years, this warning seems to have fallen on deaf ears as we are steadily progressing towards a more refined and global system of surveillance. Ever more subtle, ever more undetectable for everyday people who have close to 0 chances of opting out from the surveillance machine that the Internet has become.
First we were lured by the comfort and convenience that our devices could afford us and then, in the blink of an eye, we found ourselves being dependent on something that strips us away of our basic right to privacy, and consequently, freedom.
We are way too deep to turn back on technology, our entire social organization has been structured around it as well as our personal lives. We now work, play, and interact with each other online, in short, we live more of our lives on the Internet. That makes the issue of online privacy, and the environment we create online a really important one. Crucially we need to develop standards for our online life and begin to think of it in less naive terms.
Developing Standards For Online Privacy
When it comes to online privacy our standards are way lower than what we would expect in real life. This is partly due to the immaterial nature of online interactions which prevents us from attributing to it equal gravity to interactions in real life but also to a lack of understanding of the technology itself. We all use Google, yet a tiny fraction of us knows what actually happens to our data when we are interacting with it; this breeds a perfect environment for abusers and scoundrels of all sorts.
Eavesdropping is something we find inappropriate and morally wrong, yet when this happens online (and it always does!) we somewhat play down its gravity, or rather, we are willing to lower our standards because there is little if no alternative. And so we find ourselves trapped in an online panopticon where we strip ourselves naked in front of rapacious eyes that feast on our experiences and turn them into exploitable material.
When we are online we become inanimate objects, numbers, strings of data; for Google, Facebook, and other tech giants, our human experiences are none other than raw material to be extracted and manipulated. In this way using the Internet makes us less human as experience is purposefully desecrated by the continuous violation of those boundaries that could never be crossed in real life.
Re-Humanising Online Interactions
Interacting with another person online will never be the same as interacting with them in real life, this is an incontrovertible statement. There are some things that we would never be able to carry over to the online world, no matter how much we tried, the smells, the touch, the vibe. However, what we can most certainly carry over to our online world is other aspects of our humanity such as respect, confidentiality, openness as well as all the values that we uphold in real life.
Mass surveillance and wild neoliberal exploitation are enabled by technology but we need to understand that it doesn’t need to be this way, in fact, it shouldn’t! We must raise our standards for online privacy, re-humanising the internet for the sake of our freedom and our conscience. For how apocalyptic it might sound, we really need to take into serious consideration the possibility of a totalitarian state arising and realize that the technological infrastructure that we are building might make it impossible for us or future generations to resist it.
We need to embrace technology but we should be critical of it too, now more than ever since our lives have become inextricably intertwined with it. Technology is not only for technical people, it belongs to us all and everyone should be able to influence the course of its development towards something they need and desire, something that enriches their life instead of controlling them. Let’s open up the web and build a more humane internet!
Written by: Mr Davis
Winner of the CPG Writing Contest