Back in 1994, I worked for a start up financed by Barclays and Chase Manhattan. We were the first company b2b e-procurement solution. I remember doing a demo to a government department and was told, that they didn’t really use the Internet or have email addresses. In fact most people, when I told them what I did for a living, would stare at me as if I had fallen from another planet.
We are talking the days of Compuserve and 14.4 US Robotic modems! So most people probably didn’t even imagine that this tech hype product would become an everyday part of their life to the point where today if the Internet was not active, companies and even entire economies would crash. At the very most people probably just expected that privacy on the Internet just meant your debit card details or email password being secure.
For me, even though you can trace it’s roots back to the 1950s, the Internet is still a mere child. Computing technology overall was also still fairly young and new and it wasn’t until the 1960s through to the 1970s that scientists, developers, the best of the best, created a framework for a network. ARPANET which started as a relatively unsophisticated network including the later years in the 1980s became a important part of R&D for communication and then in the 1990s, we, the general public became aware of the Internet through tools built specifically to access it, called the World Wide Web, www.
So today, I find myself intrigued by privacy on the Internet and freedom in many ways. Lets take the Kim Dotcom saga from last year. My introduction to this crazy guy was watching him party in Monaco once and then seeing a clip of him driving on the pavement to win the Gumball Rally. Possibly he is not everyone’s cup of tea granted, but the Internet and businesses need people like this to break the mould. I have to confess I never used Megaupload but am a user of mega.
So here was a guy, certainly larger than life, living in New Zealand, with the majority of his business based outside the US, yet his massive business was seized without even so much of a hearing. Then there is the ‘die hard’ raid on his home, which again was illegal.
Since last year, a defamation machine has been hard at work against Kim Dotcom, with accusations of money laundering among many things. While you could argue there is no smoke without fire, it doesn’t feel very different to the 1978 TV show The Professionals that I just watched while writing this. The worrying thing is, there is nothing to stop the same action being taken against ordinary Internet users like me and you.
This weekend, we have had yet another news story hit us, Edward Snowden leaking details of US phone and Internet surveillance known as PRISM. The statement that law-abiding citizens need not fear intelligence sharing between the US and UK also sent me concerns about what is really happening with the Internet.
Both Facebook and Google have denied being involved in the PRISM programme, so my immediate thoughts are, was this done illegally? If I hacked into Facebook today, I would expect to go to jail, right? I also get the argument that these programmes and activity are to fight Crime and Terrorists, but where does its start or stop? Where are the boundaries with peoples privacy?
I almost think that in the future privacy becomes obsolete and a thing of the past. I have said many times that even though I use Facebook, that the information I voluntary share and give, will go from being private information and part of the public record as we have an Internet that is becoming more social and pervasive.
Take the Google glasses. Surely we are getting to the point, where I can look for information on the person standing next to me in a bar whether it be someone in business or someone I would like to date. Through possible facial recognition software (just look at what Facebook is doing - The clue is in the title) I could look at and have access to a whole variety of information.
I think events taking place over the last few years have been slowly boiling away and we could be looking at a historic moment of change. For years movies and books have said the Governments or massive corporations would control our private information, but we also have a real risk of becoming the Big Brother. Events that take place right now are important for the freedom of expressions and will change the future of the largely free and open Internet.
So who owns the Internet? You could argue, the US had a lot to do with the early days so they do? is it possible that the Internet could become as valuable as countries and we could end up with the US against the rest of the world. Back in the 1980s in the UK, the punk scene was against the establishment being the government. The Internet of the 90s like music in the past rebelled against the establishment. I do wonder if the Internet is going to now become the establishment itself and we are fighting against it.
Felt so much more simpler loading Compuserve up via floppy disk and waiting about 2 years for a screen to load up and just enjoying the wonders of access to information than all this.