Wednesday, 15-Apr-09 11:37
EU Parliament suggests new privacy guidelines

While the evil and secret ACTA treaty is being forged in the depths of Mordor Berne, some positive news comes from EU. The Parliament has adopted a report on privacy on the internet, which includes some gems such as:

...proceed to the adoption of the directive on criminal measures aimed at the enforcement of intellectual property rights, following an assessment, in the light of contemporary innovation research, of the extent to which it is necessary and proportionate, and while simultaneously prohibiting, in pursuit of that purpose, the systematic monitoring and surveillance of all users" activities on the Internet, and ensuring that the penalties are proportionate to the infringements committed; within this context, also respect the freedom of expression and association of individual users and combat the incentives for cyber-violations of intellectual property rights, including certain excessive access restrictions placed by intellectual property holders themselves;

...urge the Member States to identify all entities which use Net Surveillance and to draw up publicly accessible annual reports on Net Surveillance ensuring legality, proportionality and transparency;

...condemn government-imposed censorship of the content that may be searched on Internet sites, especially when such restrictions can have a 'chilling effect' on political speech; on the Member States to ensure that freedom of expression is not subject to arbitrary restrictions from the public and/or private sphere and to avoid all legislative or administrative measures that could have a "chilling effect" on all aspects of freedom of speech;

It isn't half bad. Now it remains to be seen whether the political will of the parliament can be turned into something concrete.

Saturday, 04-Apr-09 14:03
Choice is good. Kinda.

You know when something sits at the back of your brain and you just can't quite dislodge it but you can't really understand what it is either? Well, this is one of those blog entries.

I started to think about what the internet really means and where it comes from and what the continuum of the things are. Here are some bits from my train of thought:

  • Reading & Writing: We were no longer had to be in a given place or time to get information. Tomes of knowledge could be consumed by anyone who just acquired the necessary skills, no matter when or where.
  • Printing press: Served as a means to get reading/writing to so many more people.
  • Train & Mass transport: Again, a means to get the books produced by the printing press to even more places.
  • The Internet: A renessance of literacy. Just dropped the threshold of participation in the human knowledge pool again a lot more.

But the internet isn't the end-all in this sequence. It's still relatively expensive to get to, and in many places of the world it just isn't practical. Much like the monks of old, only a few people get access to it.

Some people look at the number of mobile phone subscribers and say that the "mobile internet" is the next step. Yes, mobile phones are available for almost everyone at prices which are no longer prohibitive. But still, they are primarily for voice - doing the same stuff as what we used to do before the invention of writing. And it's going to take a long time before everyone in Africa has a smartphone.

Incidentally, this progression is also the reason why I'm not that hot on location-based services. I mean, why add dependence just when we managed to get rid of it? Yes, they're useful to some degree (and it's cool to be able to figure out your own dependencies and not be limited by what is there physically - kinda like drawing on a blank piece of paper after spending lots of effort rubbing it clean), but still it's akin to freezing yer balls off at a nudist beach after spending millennia figuring out how not to freeze them by inventing all kinds of new clothes.

The way I see it, while the internet almost completely demolishes our time- and location -dependence, it does not still address some fundamental problems with the idea of spreading knowledge. One big issue is language - our choice of material is limited by the languages we know. Even with filtered and aggregated media (like newspapers or TV) we're still bound by the limits of the languages the editors know. I like to quote a work-specific example: Nokia has been involved with NFC for years, and we've been running big pilots with thousands of people and selling the stuff commercially for ages, but not until we did a couple of small pilots in English-speaking countries, and got English-language coverage, did the Finnish press really pick it up.

An even bigger issue is cultural. All cultures try to limit the free flow of information to some degree, for legal reasons or because they don't like the idea in general. The recently popular "internet censorship" is not really that different from the censorship slapped on every kind of media - and it's pretty much as ineffective too. People have always found ways around it if they needed to; it's just a way to pretend that bad things don't exist. And that's really the problem: The internet has something for everyone, which means that you don't need to be exposed to the stuff you don't want to be exposed to. It's really difficult to blow your mind if all you read are the same blogs and same newssites which serve you the same stuff all over again; stuff to which you already agree to.

At least when you only had a few books, you could read them all and be exposed to opinions and facts you didn't really want to know.

I don't know what the next step after the internet is going to be, but I think it should primarily concentrate on abolishing the cultural dependencies of our minds. You know, make it really easy to really see what the world is like. By that I don't mean that we should agree, but that we should at least try to understand what we're talking about and where the other guys are coming from.

Private comments? Drop me an email. Or complain in a nearby pub - that'll help.

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