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Happy Birthday, Internet: Today’s Use and Privacy

If you hadn’t heard yet, yesterday was the 25th birthday of the internet. About 25 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee was working as a physicist, and decided to connect up some computers to each other. Well… that’s the really short story of it.

There are a bunch of great stories on public radio this week to mark the internet’s age. For example, here is a little clip about Berners-Lee and his new idea – the world wide web:

http://www.npr.org/2014/03/12/289594960/a-very-special-proposal-anniversary-for-the-world-wide-web

Sure, it’s all terrifically interesting, but what does it all mean for us right now? The short answer:

We still have no idea.

What has really been catching my attention lately is all the talk about security, privacy, and surveillance. According to Colin J. Bennett’s 2011 article “In Defence of Privacy,” the concept(s) of privacty “is not, and can never be, the antidote to surveillance” (485). This took me back a bit – isn’t that what we hear in popular media all the time these days? Isn’t privacy the opposite of surveillance?

Reading further in Bennett’s article, which is largely a literature review about many of the opposing views concerning privacy, we don’t really have a cohesive concept about privacy at all. So how are we to decide whether or not our privacy is being ‘invaded’ if we don’t even really know what privacy is? I put ‘invaded’ in quotations here because ‘invasion of space’ is only one concept of how privacy works (488-489).

Rather than go on and on about how much we don’t know, I find it worth my time to explore more of how we discuss privacy, particularly in terms of rhetoric and composition pedagogy and theory in the last 25 years.

For now, I leave you with last week’s Science Friday exploration of security on the interwebs in which the expert, Bruce Schneier claims, “It’s less a little brother, and more a lot of little brothers” (Schneier), concerning networked items that can track what we do.

Later, our noble host, Ira Flatow asks, “Can we opt out?” – In short, the rather unsatisfying answer is that we kind of can’t.

http://sciencefriday.com/segment/03/07/2014/delving-into-the-security-of-an-internet-of-things.html 

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