Rethinking our dependency to the internet, and try to make it better

Don’t worship the “machine”

We may want to cultivate our instincts, our ability to navigate and interact in the world as a human not aided by a “machine”. What if that “machine” was taken away from us at any minute?

Think twice about the convenience vs privacy tradeoff. The “machine” is silently working at collecting all our personal data to monetize it. Would you give your email or bank passwords to an acquaintance? Probably not, yet we trust Google among others to access and be the safe keeper of all our information: bank accounts, IDs, private personal or work communication, photos, online searches, browsing history etc…

Read excerpts from The Truth Manifesto, What you Need to do to Create a Better Internet by Damian Bradfield below :

1. When do we ask for a new internet?

Maybe it was the moment you tried to pinpoint just when, during the day, you weren’t interacting with Google in some way.

Maybe it was that moment you looked at Mark Zuckerberg’s face during congressional hearings watched by millions. You thought: Why do I have to live in your world? Out of all the people out there, why do I have to live in your world?

2. The Age of Trust

We believe the intricate system we’ve constructed will remain reliable and never falter. We’re confident enough to place much of our life online.

We trust software all day, every day. We trust the language of algorithms. We trust software to correct our most personal creative mistakes.

We slide money back and forth online, consult navigational systems, forego old technologies, such as keys, for the fobs in our pockets. We trust that proprietary software will get us from A to B.

We’re taught as children not to get into the cars of strangers.

Now, Uber in hand, we slide into strange cars every day and expectantly look at the driver in the front seat. ‘Your name is Jason, right?’

Imagine telling your ten-year-old self: ‘When you get older, everyone will voluntarily carry with them a tracking device at all times.’

We’ve suddenly become very, very trusting beings. It’s happened in only a handful of years. Would you like Google to remember this password for you? Sure. I trust it with everything else. The friendly interface of technology obscures the magnitude of what is going on here.

Wake up with your phone, glance at an Apple watch, employ Shazam to grab a song flitting past you in the coffee shop, trace your pathway with GPS, slide that CVS rewards card into the reader, pay with FasTrak or E-ZPass, use Nest to control the thermostat from your phone or computer.

Because we’re living our lives online, it’s worth asking the question: Is the internet heading in a more trustworthy direction? Every day, new evidence emerges to say: Maybe not.

There’s an onslaught. In October 2018, as reported by Business Insider, news broke of ‘a bug in the company’s Google+ social network that affected an estimated 500,000 people and exposed information that users intended to keep private’. That’s just one particular week.

Increasingly, there’s something that separates the interactions we have online with those in real life.

No one sits down and reads the terms and conditions. People used to. Or at least they used to when they were at the bank, ready to sign a mortgage, or sitting across the desk from an insurance salesperson. Small print was not a daily occurrence. You paid attention when it came along. Now we all refuse to scroll to the bottom. We can’t make that journey.

You’ve probably faced an update already today. You’ve probably just blindly accepted some Ts and Cs. We trust the companies that keep breaking our trust.

And when they all get together they can’t believe how easy it’s become to crack this societal safe. Who knew all it would take was a block of legalese text? It was like a skeleton key. It would give you access to anything.

What happens to our interpersonal relationships and our expectations when we start relying on scores?

Our lives unfold, day-by-day, interaction by interaction. We’re constantly asked to enter our details, enter our new passwords, give secondary contact details, enter text in the box below. Now that we’ve all bought into this ongoing process, there’s not much choice other than to go along with it, say yes to the next update, click the box at the end of the most recent set of terms and conditions. Trust is forced upon us. Trust is demanded from us. Trust accretes around us. Its upkeep is important.”

— excerpts from The Truth Manifesto by Damian Bradfield

This book raises more compelling questions. Still searching for solutions but the conversation is started and tech companies such as Duck Duck Go or WeTransfer (founded by Damian Bradfield) are a few who strive at protecting people’s rights to privacy.

His outline for a better internet shares the same values as WeTransfer, to refrain from collecting personal data in order to monetize it. Instead, the file sharing service creates revenue by selling (or giving away) wallpaper space for exposure, under the motto “people first, creativity second, technology third”. If you could reinvent the internet now, what would it look like? → Get his book to read more about it here

Rights to Privacy

The age old adage of people choosing convenience over online privacy rights, when the subject comes up in conversations, is usually along the lines of “Why should I care? I have nothing to hide.”
I’m often bewildered at how little people are able to think just beyond their own confort or even past the present, or more… to learn from the past.
Take a look at the 3 reasons stated here as to why this argument is flawed :

1. Privacy isn’t about hiding information; privacy is about protecting information, and surely you have information that you’d like to protect.

Do you close the door when you go to the bathroom? Would you give your bank account information to anyone? Do you want all your search and browsing history made public? Of course not.

Simply put, everyone wants to keep certain things private and you can easily illustrate that by asking people to let you make all their emails, texts, searches, financial information, medical information, etc. public. Very few people will say yes.

2. Privacy is a fundamental right and you don’t need to prove the necessity of fundamental rights to anyone.

You should have the right to free speech even if you feel you have nothing important to say right now. You should have the right to assemble even if you feel you have nothing to protest right now. These should be fundamental rights just like the right to privacy.

And for good reason. Think of commonplace scenarios in which privacy is crucial and desirable like intimate conversations, medical procedures, and voting. We change our behavior when we’re being watched, which is made obvious when voting; hence, an argument can be made that privacy in voting underpins democracy.

3. Lack of privacy creates significant harms that everyone wants to avoid.

You need privacy to avoid unfortunately common threats like identity theft, manipulation through ads, discrimination based on your personal information, harassment, the filter bubble, and many other real harms that arise from invasions of privacy.

We can’t stress enough that your privacy shouldn’t be taken for granted. The ‘I have nothing to hide’ response does just that, implying that government and corporate surveillance should be acceptable as the default.

Privacy should be the default. We are setting a new standard of trust online and believe getting the privacy you want online should be as easy as closing the blinds.→ Read more here