I've seen the future ...
...... and it scares the hell out of me, or might if I wasn't an unashamed idealist and probably too old to actually be part of it.
Although I am one of the internet's leading lights (in Indonesia
) with at least 200 folk a day (on average, on a good day) popping by, I still value a degree of anonymity. Yes, I do know that my name and infamy can be tracked from this site and through the various widgets and gadgets I've embedded in my template I can also easily find out who comes from where.
However, unless my visitors have come from what appears to another interesting site, I rarely bother tracking anyone. Honestly. But if we bloggers publish on the net it's because we want our thoughts to be read, so it's only fair to allow others to have a peruse. Although Jakartass may sometimes appear to be the work of someone suffering from ADD and my posts can appear to be random, I suggest that it's curiosity and happenstance rather than any sense of logic which generally predetermines what I comment on.
I'm not anti-social, although friends may disagree, but I have only signed up to Facebook in order to browse family photos. I do not have a Friendster account, nor have I accepted invitations, often from complete strangers, to join other so-called social networking sites
such as Facebook, MySpace, Live Journal, FullaShyte, etc., nor do I bother with instant communication gizmos such as Twitter or Windows Messenger.
I do like spontaneity but not at the expense of privacy. I have been known to chat, when I can get a word in edgeways, on JakChat
, but, hey, I also like to chat face-to-face with some, but not all, of those I meet online.
You'll note that I've personally placed the only adverts I have on Jakartass; they are not generally part of the editorial content. This is not because I don't need an additional source of income - I do - but because having inflicted my point of view on you, why should I inflict additional crap?
There are well-known dangers
to giving away too much personal information, something teenagers especially should be aware of. And now there is a newer development on social networking sites, both insidious and invidious. Having tracked the online clicks of their members, operators are now selling advertising which is specifically geared to the profiles and posts In your 'private' space you are likely to find personalised ads, offering you medicines, planned parties - whatever matches your condition.
Socialising is yet another commodity being sold to the highest bidder. There can be little sense of spontaneity if your every posted thought is monetised - by a faceless someone else. But there is worse.
The problem is not that those wishing to control your every thought can block access to particular sites, as readily witnessed in China and recently here. After all, those of us who are fairly au fait
with the internet soon find ways to bypass the censorship. Now, however, it is the machines which are proving to be more effective for monitoring and controlling.
Everyone and his cat seems to have an i-Pod. Were you aware that these and, say, Blackberries can only be modified by their manufacturers? This may mean a certain immunity from the trojans, trolls and spammers who plague the rest of us on the net, but this also means that you are virtually imprisoned, locked in to certain systems whose operators can read your emails, follow your hyperspace trails and build up a 'real' profile of you, unlike the pseudonymous profile you post on your social networking sites.Jonathan Zittrain says
that tethered appliances make censorship easier. In North Korea, the 38-year-old professor of "cyberlaw" at both Oxford and Harvard universities notes, radios are manufactured so they can't be tuned to non-official sources. Controlling a Chinese dissident's communications with the outside world is far easier if they pass through a mobile phone; on the wide-open internet, the authorities fight a constant losing battle, shutting down each new chatroom or messageboard as it pops up.
So now I have yet another reason to remain a Luddite.
................................Jonathan Zittrain is the author of The Future of the Internet And How to Stop It, pub. by Allen Lane.