What personal privacy means for online freedom
User privacy is coming to the forefront of the debate of personal online freedoms, meaning it is important to understand the crossroads of personal data and innovation.
The Edward Snowden leaks about the extensive surveillance programs being carried out by the National Security Administration revealed a number of insights about the extent of personal privacy online. There are a number of ways that companies can track your personal activity online. Be it the websites one visits, the links her or she clicks and even the keywords searched, all of this information can be used by organizations who are interested in learning more about a particular individual.
Depending on who wants to know more about an Internet user, the implications of this data collection can vary. A company may use it to cater online advertisements more toward your habits, while the NSA may use it to cultivate a larger knowledge of citizens' online activity. In either situation, there is a fine line between tracking trends and invading one's personal privacy.
Decentralizing the internet?
One of the reasons behind this trend is that a smaller number of companies own the Internet's infrastructure and networks, according to GigaOM. When the Internet was first created, any number of people could contribute to its creation, however, the number of parties doing this has declined. Now, companies like Facebook and Google have access to larger amounts of user information with each new service that is developed.
The news source noted that a trend that is emerging to run counter to this centralization is open source capabilities. This is the development of Internet tools that any one can contribute to. This way, no one company has control over all of the data that a user generates. The problem here is that these open source platforms may not be developed with security in mind, so what is gained in decentralization is lost in technical capabilities.
The future of the movement
This trend has already had a profound impact in the U.S. but could reach even further. Wikipedia, for instance, is a prime example of how collaboration can lead to a useful resource on the Internet. But for a larger movement to take off, this needs to be applied to a larger scale.
Redecentralize.org is one organization that is looking to encourage more decentralized information on the Internet. It argues that it would be able to improve resilience, privacy, competition and creativity online. While the future of the decentralization is still very much unclear, it offers an interesting counter point to the prominent trends ruling cyberspace.