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Entries in Privacy (2)

Wednesday
Mar302011

Does the Internet Serve You And Me (Or Do I Have That Backwards)?

I wrote this a couple years ago.  And I've only become more concerned that technology is evolving without sufficient public debate.  For those of you who remember the movie "The Matrix", yes it would appear I've taken the "blue pill". Anybody want to sublet my pod?


The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google By Nicholas Carr

Nicholas Carr is the Harvard professor who wrote the "Does IT Matter?" article in the Harvard Business Review a few years ago (and who consequently got a bunch of people agitated). In the Big Switch, he looks at the evolving structure of the internet and sees parallels with how the electrical grid evolved over the last century. He rolls the story forward and like Jonathan Zittrain in "The Future of the Internet and How To Stop It" he finds some things to worry about. They are big things.

What are the implications when in the name of convenience, simplicity, personalization, and good service your every click is understood by Google (or whomever)? What are the human implications of Google knowing (or being able to infer) lots about lots, and lots about you - all without your knowledge? What are the implications that the device on your belt or on your desk is not fully in your control? Here's a couple real world teasers that the tech savvy among you will spot as technologically trivial: Did you know that your PC camera and microphone can be turned on without your knowledge? Same for cell phones ... even when they are powered off. Same for "OnStar in your car").

This book and others begin an interesting debate about the boundary between the internet and you. If the internet becomes the world's "brain" what does that mean? And if this does comes to pass, what is your future as an autonomous individual? This is a big question. It's not yet answered (and only marginally posed). But it does get me thinking about those old Star Trek scenes about "assimilation by the borg". Before the borg got all pushy about joining the club, did they actually have a sales pitch? Would it be familiar to what we hear today? Just wondering ...
Nicholas Carr's blog is called Roughtype. You can purchase the book here: The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google
Tuesday
Mar012011

The Dark Side of Your Amazon Kindle e-reader.

(I continue grabbing a couple of my old reviews of favorite books and dropping them onto this blog. This one is from 2008.  This book legitimized my concerns that the individual is loosing their autonomy in the internet world. The author reignited some of the internet libertarianism of the 1990's and happily privacy and control remains an important issue today.)

The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It By Jonathan Zittrain

I read this book on my Amazon Kindle. Ironically this book describes why my Amazon Kindle (and for that matter your iPhone) may represent a problem for the information technology industry (and for all of us as individuals).

Zittrain describes how open devices and software platforms can faciltate innovation and how closed platforms don't. Further, he discusses how these emerging closed device platforms risk converting the internet into a tool for simplified corporate or governmental control of what you see and hear. This book, along with "The Big Switch" by Nicholas Carr, challenge the conventional cyber-utopian assumption that the internet will continue to be a wide open landscape where you independently (and privately) choose when and where you can go. The battle is for control of the end-point device.

Zittrain has certainly spotted the dark side of Web 2.0. He has specifically illuminated those selected design assumptions within and around the internet that can shift the net from a tool by which you manage your life -- to a tool by which others manage your life. This is a serious book that merges the future of technology with public policy (and without ever actually discussing public policy -- he instead wisely focuses on the implications of certain technology architectural choices).

"The Future of the Internet" is one of the first books to directly question the sustainability of cyber-libertarian assumptions about the internet. If you cherish those long standing assumptions, you may want to spend a little time on this book.  You can buy the book here: The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It .  Also here is Zittrain's blog on the evolution of the internet and privacy.