By Annika Åman-Goodwille
Internet transparency? I’m both scared and excited about its benefits and dangers. I remember keeping a lock on my personal, well-hidden diary when I was young, so I gasp when I see how young people expose themselves on Facebook. Nowadays it seems to be increasingly difficult to communicate confidentially, even to be in danger of being seen as having something to hide if one tries to do so.
Transparency is necessary for democracy to minimize government corruption. Along with that goes freedom of speech. The Freedom of Information Act is Britain’s attempt at transparency; the parliamentary expenses scandal highlighted its need. On a personal level, it makes life easier to live with colleagues and friends when one has no hidden agendas. Yet I’m sure we all have things we’d rather not publish to the world if only because they may be misconstrued out of context.
So, I have been struggling to get to grips with WikiLeaks. Their assumption is that publishing information supplied by anonymous whistleblowers will make the world a better place; information, much of which, written candidly in confidence, can easily be misunderstood. Yet is the WikiLeaks process democratic in itself? Isn’t Julian Assange acting as judge and jury? Given that only1% of the files leaked have been published, isn’t he acting as our censor? He says the names of anyone in danger of reprisal have been redacted. Yet has Wikileaks got enough knowledge to ensure innocent people don’t get hurt? What has been achieved other than newspaper sales? Some diplomatic red faces? Yet has it so far suppressed injustice? I doubt it.
Despite the efforts of the world’s most powerful governments to control it, transparency on the Internet is here to stay. It will be more difficult to hide corruption, injustice and blatant disregard for human rights. Though I cannot help but wonder how government communications will be amended by the knowledge that WikiLeaks is out there. Back to handwritten notes, locked diplomatic bags and the old shredder?
Though we should be sceptical about the commercial interests of the likes of Google and Facebook and of ‘eavesdropping’ through government Internet surveillance, on a personal level it is still relatively easy to control what we allow to be published on the Internet about ourselves. Mark my words, be wary and use those controls.