Monday, September 29, 2008

Turning facebook and the internet into surveillance society?

As I was reading on Pusha's "what's hot" today, I noticed a youtube video highlighting the integrity issues associated with Facebook which I'd like to recommend to people:

Regardless of whether the somewhat far-fetched associations between facebook and the Central Intelligence Agency and the Information Awareness Office are accurate or not, it's a fact facebook is a data miner's or marketers wet dream. Also, I am becoming more and more convinced that authorities or illicit players won't be the major concern on the Internet of tomorrow - instead everyone will be so closely knit together on the Social Internet and through what's essentially Sousveillance (webcams, microblogs, whatever) that anything done outside this essentially volontary cage will be looked upon suspiciously... except if you manage to create yourself a double life, or build your unabomber hut.

The Internet will be this huge conservative village where everyone must strive to show only their most normal faces. And you can't move away from the Internet village with the pretense of going to college or anything. In that village, no-one dares to come out as gay, or maybe, just maybe... that can be a somewhat better and more humane village than the ones we have today. What do you think?


† herzleid † said...

(Sorry if this is long and somewhat disorganised...)

Like I've mentioned earlier I'm still not signed up for Facebook. Considering Internet today though, the fact that I am signed up with Google/blogger/YouTube/livejournal (only to mention a few) probably has approximately the same effect, just less prominently so. People used to look at me funny when I went on dates with people I met on the Internet. Was I not afraid that they would turn out to be completely different than they were online? My response was always that I, if anything, felt that people were usually MORE honest online. It's simply easier to expose your inner thoughts and feelings when you don't have to stand face to face with someone.

However, with a future such as you suggest, with people (society) becoming more and more close-knit even online, my fear would be that we will see the same "filtered" interaction online as we see IRL today. We might even be there already. Just think of all the kids who these days are bullied not only in school, but also on their Lunarstorm/Facebook/Myspace/etc. Personally I liked Internet better when it was anonymous to a larger extent.. you know, me and my misanthropy.

I also think we tend to forget that Internet is without limits, people see it as a "place", a "box" with boundaries like a room in real life. So, while social patterns online and irl are the same, people still THINK of Internet as something different, separated from real life, in its own separate "box". Just look at the debated publishing of the FUP from the Arboga case. The material is public - but the fact that it was published online suddenly gave it a new dimension and people got ants in their pants. So, if people come to realise just how open and uncontrolled the Internet is, perhaps we'll see them becoming more restrictive with the information they share about themselves?

You say the social aspect of controlling the individual in the future will be greater than the government/"big brother" aspect, but I'm not sure I completely agree. I think the Internet poses a higher risk for violations of our personal freedoms and rights. For example: IRL you need to very actively seek out information about a person (e.g. political, religious, personal..). Online, you can get (most of) it all served up in one Google search. When you have to go to some trouble to find information, you usually don't bother, however with plenty of information readily accessible, the process is so much easier that it's "worth" doing it. I'm worried about the subsequent effects of e.g. unconscious bias in otherwise "fair judgement" situations. If two people apply for a job, who are equal in competence and such, but you know that one of them is religious/politically active/is gay/lives with his mum/used to date an Arab/is a UFO-spotter/partys hard 6 days a week/[insert option here] - which one would you hire?

Carl-Johan Sveningsson said...

I love long comments, give me a moment to read through it and I'll answer too! :-)