Information Wants to be Free

Most major web-based service providers  are currently "free". They make their money by mining your personal information for commercial gain. They know an increasing amount about your location, past purchases, interests, search behaviour and networks of online friends. They can target you with advertising so specific that admen of the pre-digital age would feel faint with envy. In other words, even if you feel you are getting a good deal from Facebook or Google, they have their hands in your pocket. They will never forget what they have learned about you. Promises to safeguard your information notwithstanding, nowhere is it writ in stone that the information they harvest will always remain "safe". We rush towards these new services with little thought to future consequences. Perhaps future digital citizens will be less concerned with privacy than we currently are. Nonetheless, the concentration of your information in the hands of a very small number of companies should give us all pause. A less worrisome future might allow people to control their own identities, store their own personal information and decide in fine detail how much they wish to reveal to the public at large. There are already protocols being developed to allow this, and no doubt they will become much more powerful. Such an approach might allow for a richer, more nuanced online social world than the narrowly commercial model currently in the ascendant.