The Clash of the Web Giants and the Cyber Watchdogs
Imagine Facebook disappearing into nothingness. What if suddenly, a cyberspace black hole gobbles it up. With it, your latest pictures, statuses, and your cyber friends. Le gasp! No more updates on what your crush ate for breakfast or if your classmates are already done with their assignments. No more Pet Society, Restaurant City or Mafia Wars. No more cyber stalking research. No more likes, unlikes and you-name-it-we-have-it fan pages.
With Facebook at its peak of popularity you might say that this is impossible. Think again. That popularity comes with millions of Facebook users who share a large pool of data to the world. Thus, privacy issues. When you’re feeling like you are living in a glass tower where everybody knows everything you do and everything about you, that could be quite unnerving, right?
Wi-figate and the “innocent” dipping in incident
I read about a recent cyber scandal dubbed as the “Wi-Figate” scandal that has alerted data-protection watchdogs all over the world. According to reports, Google was doing a project which involves capturing images of streets around the world. Perhaps, they are planning to improve the handy-dandy Google Maps. Then, Google “accidentally” gathered data from unsecured wi-fi networks in people’s homes. Okay, there goes that mushy chat conversation and must-be- censored torrent download. No wonder the watchdogs growled at them. Not only that, another incident has Google “dipping” into Google Buzz users’ Gmail accounts. So, this is the Internet Age’s version of that taboo of reading letters that are not meant for you to read? But for the European(By the way, if I remember correctly, this incident happened in Europe) privacy guardians this is an outright violation of a very important human right, the right to privacy.
Google has reacted via positive changes specifically in Google Buzz. I am not sure how they are addressing the Wi-figate issue since members of the European Union have varied opinions on how the problem should be handled.
The rise of the (Cyber) Watchdogs
I admit that I somehow got confused at that point where watchdogs were mentioned. I was not aware that watchdogs exist on the other side of the world. To make it clear, these watchdogs are actually people from data-protection agencies and they have reprimanded Google regarding this nasty “glitch”, thus, (cyber) watchdogs.
Going back to the issue; Apparently, Europe has a Data Protection Directive1 which has been in existence since 1995 and that there are regulations such as Google deleting sensitive search data after nine months.
It was also mentioned that Asian countries who are members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation( APEC) are also planning to put up Data Privacy Pathfinder2 to regulate the use of data available from data pools such as Google and Facebook. I still cannot decide whether this will benefit netizens3 or not. There are definitely pros and cons. Looking at the cons first.
I believe that the existence of internet watchdogs in Asia may put an end to the life mission hobby of (adorable, non-violent) cyber stalkers out there. Selfish reasoning
Second, isn’t it the responsibility of every cyber world citizen to decide for themselves what data can be shared and what data can be dangerous when shared? I think the internet should be dangerous to people who do not have the level of maturity to decide when to stop sharing data. Case in point, people who update their social networking accounts every second so as to keep cyber friends updated with everything about them. I am dying to tell these people, No one is really interested on how many times you’ve been to the loo! So for this reason, the internet should gobble these people up. Alive!
Another dilemma I have is that, I fear that with strict rules, the internet may lose its charms. Personally, I like how everybody is given the equal opportunity to express themselves online. No one can interrupt your status post and prevent you from voicing out your opinions and typing out your ideas.
Establish the rules. Learn them by heart. And break some.
The points I’ve raised might be biased, but right now they are honestly what concerns me most.
I suddenly remembered what a university professor from an elective class I took two years ago said. She said that we need to learn the established rules before we can be brilliant enough to break them. And looking at this point of view, the first step to a progressive Internet Age would be to establish the rules. Perhaps, a set of regulations will lead to an unexpected yet beautiful evolution of the Web.
And that for me can be a pro that will end all cons. Who does not want a strategy with security and development rolled in one anyway? I guess it will all depend on the selection of these watchdogs and the drafting of the laws that will be implemented. If privacy laws will mean that civilians will only be granted limited access to data but all existing data will be available to the cyber watchdogs(and these watchdogs’ friends and family), I don’t think that will be fair.
Issues and questions arising…
Let me go back to my Facebook dilemma. Will privacy rules and regulations put an end to the reign of social networking sites and other web giants(Yes, I am thinking of Google)? Or will the watchdogs allow netizens to have a more productive and satisfying(at the same time,safe) Internet experience? I think, all we can do for now is to wait and see.
Oh, first I have yet to read about this goal of creating privacy protection program, which can be very much applied to the cyber world ,coming to Philippine shores. After all, our country is a member of the APEC.
- The Data Protection Directive regulates the processing of personal data within the European Union regardless if the processing is automated or not. It states that personal data should not be processed at all except if it is for legitimate purposes( i.e. for the purpose by which they are collected like for a national census)
- The Data Privacy Pathfinder will enable APEC member economies to work together in developing a set of regional guidelines for privacy rules.
- A term that loosely means citizens of the internet and thus, used to refer to internet users.