Friday, May 13, 2011

The powerless of the individual in the face of the internet giants

Blogger was down for a whole day. I can, as you will no doubt be aware, post here again, but some posts are still missing. Blogger Buzz says these "should" be restored soon. I would find it more reassuring if it said that "will" be restored.

And when I finally got home from work Twitter was down too.

All of which brings home to me how little power the individual citizen on the net. I have no idea where my posts are held or what to do if they suddenly stop appearing.

I am reminded of an article John Harris wrote in the Guardian recently:
The computer industry came of age in the 1990s, that giddy phase of American and European history when authoritarianism was assumed to be on the wane. For sure, it's still nice to live in a liberal democracy, but given that the world has since moved in no end of sinister directions, isn't our unthinking embrace of the cloud (and just to recap: our medical records could soon be up there) an ill-advised throwback? 
And what of the long view: looking ahead 50 years, how certain are we that the surveillance state will not have extended its tentacles; that nasty, illiberal politics will not be all the rage; or that Google, Microsoft et al. will not have learned dangerous new tricks?
I fear there may be something in this - and not just because of today's frustrations.

If you went on a social media training course even a couple of years ago you would be told that ideas like "privacy" were hopelessly old-fashioned. Young people today put their whole lives online. We dinosaurs were going to have to catch up.

This was nonsense, of course. As those young people probably discovered when they started applying for jobs.

I do put a calculated version of my life online here on this blog. If anything, writing it has made me more active because I want to have something interesting to write about.

But we all need our privacy - whether from government or from Google. One of the notable things about commerce of the web is that is has not given rise to near perfect competition but to thumping great monopolies that it is hard to love.

Later. My missing posts are back. Thank you, Blogger.


Don said...

Came here from a links-to list at blogger buzz. I share your concerns. Populations evolve in cycles, and a massive cycle away from liberalism towards a preference for central control is probably inevitable. By that time, the cloud and its anti-crime cameras and face-recognition software as well as laws passed to prevent people confounding these things, all in the name of public safety or national security, will have created a state from which the inevitable future swing back towards liberalism may be impossible.

My last post is still missing, and I hope it comes back because it was one of my best.

Wayzata said...

We've always been at war with Eastasia.

Zoompad said...

Youtube has also been down today. Thats three social networking sites all at once. What the heck is going on?