Law in the Internet Society
It is strongly recommended that you include your outline in the body of your essay by using the outline as section titles. The headings below are there to remind you how section and subsection titles are formatted.

Realizing the Autonomy Loss

-- By TuviaPeretz - 03 Jan 2012

What We've Lost

When asked about whether they are concerned over the loss of privacy which results from many of the ways in which we use the internet many people respond dismissively. They are not terrorists or revolutionaries and do not live an alternative lifestyle, so what do they have to be concerned about? No one would ever waste resources observing them and even if this were to be done there is no dirt to be found. Whether or not the idea that they have nothing to hide is true, this perception of the privacy loss which results from the internet’s memory fails to capture another critical erosion which has occurred with the internet—that of autonomy.

The most illustrative example I have heard of an autonomy loss which can come with the internet was the example given in class. Picture a man who is trying to quit smoking. In today’s world there is an internet company who knows that he is trying to quit smoking. Either through the products and books he has bought to help him quit, or through his multiple Google searches of “how to quit smoking,” the trail exists, and it clearly leads to his attempt to quit smoking. Since this information is out there it can also be bought, and when a cigarette brand sends him a free carton of cigarettes in the mail right as he is struggling to overcome his smoking addiction it should come as no surprise. The cigarette brand knows that this is a small price to pay if they can keep him from quitting and ensure a steady stream of cigarette purchases for the rest of his life. This is what is meant by the internet autonomy loss and while this may be a particularly significant example this happens over and over in our daily internet infused lives.

A couple of months ago I read about a writer in a magazine article and wanted to find out some more information. I searched his name and read through his Wikipedia page and a few other pages about him. Satisfied, I closed the window and continued on with whatever else I was doing. A few days later while searching for something else on Google I saw a link for one of the author’s books on sale at Amazon. I clicked on the link, thought to myself “what a coincidence that this ad came up,” and before I knew it (and thanks to Amazon’s one click purchase option) I had bought the book. Without the link there I never would have purchased the book, and without my Google search of the author’s name a few days earlier the link never would have appeared. This is an example of an autonomy loss (or at least autonomy impairment) which happens on a daily basis (as is all the times I click on the link and don’t purchase the item but am distracted from whatever else I am doing).

I think that this autonomy loss is not something people are attune to. Because of how these changes have crept in over time and have often accompanied innovations and improvements in our internet experience (like storing your preferences) it is difficult for people to realize what the costs have been. Additionally, people often don’t realize that these losses are not an inherent piece of some of the innovations they are enjoying. The question here is how we can help internet users realize just how much they have given up.

How It Can Be Realized

After my Amazon buying experience I began to see how much [[][targeted advertisements] were influencing my internet experience.  I decided to seek an easy non-technical way in which I could change this.  I deactivated cookies on my browser and discovered a search engine called DuckDuckGo (Wikipedia) which does not track my searches and does not connect my searches with the sites I visited.  I no longer have targeted ads and don’t have to worry about a record of my search queries.

The important point here is that we need to find simple ways of showing people how much they have given up.  People are less concerned about the privacy infringements which come on the internet because the costs are delayed and impossible to predict.  Many of us will readily accept a program or application which offers us convenience in the short term even if the costs may not be worthwhile in the long term, simply because we are unable to do the calculus.  However, if we can find simple ways of showing people how much they have given up on the autonomy front, while also making their internet experience as convenient as ever, I think that people would begin to care more about internet privacy and autonomy.  We need to create an internet experience that is free of monitoring and data retention, and allow people to easily use this platform for a week or a month and compare it to their normal internet use.  In using this they will be able to see just how different a more anonymous internet experience can be as well as what they have given up, and they may be convinced to take protective steps in the future.

You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

Note: TWiki has strict formatting rules for preference declarations. Make sure you preserve the three spaces, asterisk, and extra space at the beginning of these lines. If you wish to give access to any other users simply add them to the comma separated ALLOWTOPICVIEW list.


Webs Webs

r2 - 04 Sep 2012 - 22:02:28 - IanSullivan
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM