MacKinnon: ‘It’s going to be messy’

Cybersecurity is a topic that most often ends up putting the responsibility on the individual user to protect his or her data. That is a useless solution, many internet users have a very limited understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes and those who do still are at an information disadvantage to cyber-criminals, hackers, spammers, government surveillance, profit maximising intermediaries, service providers collecting personal data etc. Public institutions would be a better answer, except their reach is often limited to one country and the internet of course is global.  And these days it seems we cannot really trust the public institutions too much in terms of looking after our privacy. Making the intermediaries liable is Netopia’s best suggestion so far, they control the technology and traffic after all – plus they shape traffic all the time to optimise their networks and revenue. But that has downsides too, who decides what should be blocked? What about over-filtering? What if different users have different priorities?

“It’s going to be messy” says Rebecca MacKinnon. She is one of the people on the planet who has done the deepest thinking on these issues. She says it’s messy, as in there will not be one single fix, like a download patch. Better to see human rights online as democracy: a never-ending process of strong wills and opposing interests. Instead of looking for one solution, we must try to find many suggests MacKinnon and points to some current initiatives in various forms. You have read Netopia’s interview with Rebecca MacKinnon (one click away from this blog post), now watch her speech at an internet conference yesterday. It’s the best thirty minutes you will ever spend on human rights online.