I started this week by reading an interesting article by Mark Rogowsky which explains how Google has the right to scan your emails etc., and will apparently use what they find to persecute you, providing you are guilty of viewing/sending child pornography. Awesome! I wonder if they can work to get drug lords and gangs brought up on charges next…but wait.
I was discussing this article with my husband, and he made the statement that using the internet is a privilege not a right, and if you don’t like it you shouldn’t use it. It was that statement that had me questioning- is it a privilege? Should we just be content thinking “this is just how it is?”
Next, I watched an interesting documentary on Netflix called Terms and Conditions May Apply (watch the trailer), and I was blown away to discover just how much of our information is being mined, and sold to the highest bidder. Why are we as online users, mindlessly accepting these personal infringements as ok?
I know that reading and keeping up with ‘terms and conditions’ is difficult and time consuming – but why are we so quick to relinquish our rights and freedoms to use the web?
I also spent time this week watching (and re-watching) an incredible documentary about Aaron Swartz, someone I had never heard of until this week. From what I have read and watched, Swartz was a savant in many ways -he was someone who could understand the complexities of the web, and coding; while simultaneously understanding the social inequalities that exist and in fact working tirelessly to fight the way those inequalities are being perpetuated on the web.
As I continued in my reading and viewing this week, I found myself considering Tim Berners-Lee and the creation of the World Wide Web. After all, when Berners-Lee ‘invented’ the internet, he easily could have sold the idea to the highest bidder and become quite rich- leaving the rest of us with a mess to sort out (I’m sure) with smaller ‘webs’ that you would likely have to pay for access to, etc. Just how different would our internet experience be, if Berners-Lee had capitalized on it?
So now, I am left considering, if the internet was started on such a ‘free-ing’, ‘equal’ notion- how are we currently in such a space that we are being surveillanced, and ‘type-casted’ by our clicks? How are we legally accountable for the things that no one reads – or may not understand? How has our internet become a place of restrictions and inequalities, and why exactly are we standing idly by?
Does our Constitution Act fall short of protecting us online- solely because of the ‘Terms and Conditions’? Are we in such a ‘new’ space online, that our Charter of Rights and Freedoms hasn’t caught up to the evolution of where we ‘live’ our lives?
The documentaries and links are primarily from the United States, so we’re probably prone to believing Canada is better off. That’s not really the case. Our government (well, the previous government) put forth a bill (which is now a law) known as C-51. This law opens up the opportunity to ‘watch’ Canadians in an online capacity, and it also has the potential to ‘limit’ our freedom of speech. It’s happening here folks, we need to be questioning, and we need to stop being complacent with organizations telling us they are entitled to control our online spaces, there needs to be boundaries negotiated that are adhered to- just as we have norms ‘in real life’.
I find myself questioning why these spaces are considered different and in need of negotiating? We wouldn’t let the mail carrier rifle through our letters before delivering them, so why is this accepted online?
In Canada, there are organizations such as OpenMedia which focus on access, expression and privacy on the internet, they have many online campaigns and coalitions to support them in asserting Canadians rights online.
After all of my considerations this week, I am questioning why these organizations are on the fringe, and not the norm? If we don’t start asking these questions, where does the line get drawn?