There’s a wonderful quote in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “The Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal [is] a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you- daft as a bush, but very ravenous.”
Here on the Internet, we face a related problem. Every time we type something into a web search bar, it is analyzed. Every web site we visit is tracked back to us. Every word we send over email can be read in transit. Every IM can be captured. All of our transactions using credit or debit card are logged, the locations, amounts and purchases used to develop detailed profiles of us. This information can be, and often is, used to manipulate/exploit us. (This doesn’t even take into account spyware, keystroke loggers, and other invasive recording/tracking devices that record many people’s every movements.)
We can’t see it happening, so most people don’t realize that we’re being watched.
Even when we do realize we’re being watched, often the attitude is, “Who cares?” Corporations, dictators and other modern predators aren’t as stupid as the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast, and they’re very ravenous. Many of us operate with a broad trust in human goodness which is unfounded. Humans enslave, hurt, kill and exploit each other. Not all of us, but some. Having equal visibility, or at least an accurate understanding of the playing field, is exceptionally important.
In order to preserve true democracy and individual freedom, we need to demand better publicity and transparency of monitoring. People are not designed for an environment in which we are constantly being watched by an invisible eye. We don’t instinctively take this into account when designing government or conducting business. We need to:
a) Educate people regarding current monitoring techniques by government, corporations, and criminals;
b) Work to make these activities as visible as possible, by demanding signage, lights, labels or other visible indications of surveillance in all forms of technology.
If you have suggestions regarding how and why to make surveillance more visible (on the Internet and beyond), please contribute comments. This is an exceptionally important issue that we need to openly discuss and address.
|PGP-signed text: 2010-02-01 (current)|