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No further comments about the blocking issue – perhaps we should agree to differ.

This week I have something rather different to think about –similar situations but in two rather different areas.


The first of these areas is privacy. Is the attitude towards personal privacy changing? Does the “younger generation” not value privacy at all any longer, or has there been a shift in terms of which aspects of a person’s life are considered to be private? I have heard it proposed by experts that in twenty years or so privacy will no longer exist as a concept, but my own observation suggests rather a shift in what is considered to be private. Today I downloaded a piece of software onto my laptop and realised that, in the end, secure privacy no longer exists. This is from the “Terms and Conditions” – “… may disclose any or all personal data and contents you have sent, posted or published if required to comply with applicable law or the order or requirement of a court, administrative agency or other governmental body.” “other governmental body” sounds dangerously general to me. But if privacy as a concept is becoming quaint, old fashioned, unimaginable, like the “glimpse of stocking” that in “olden days“ according to Cole Porter’s song was “looked on as something shocking”, then perhaps now we would agree with him “anything goes”?


The second area is intellectual property. If the philosophy of the new world is open-ness, an absence of privacy, then what becomes of ownership of words? Will plagiarism, like privacy, cease to exist as a concept? I have read at least one paper that proposed the abolition of the concept of plagiarism because it is old fashioned and contrary to the sharing spirit of the age. Because of my academic background plagiarism shocks me. The recent discovery of a block of four pages of “tweaked” plagiarised material in a report submitted by a consultant with an academic background was quite horrifying. Should it be? Or is the intellectual property of the world turning into a vast global commons from which anyone can appropriate whatever material they wish, with impunity and without any obligation for citation?


And as an ‘afterword” from the Financial Times, a quotation from a participant at the London Conference on Cyberspace, currently in session “Carl Bildt, Sweden’s minister for foreign affairs, told the conference, rather optimistically, that the internet would mean that there would be no “hidden corners of the world” or any “dark spaces”.



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Comment by Tim Davies on November 6, 2011 at 3:55pm

Hello Deirdre,

How are you? I hope all is well in St Lucia. 

You are raising some really interesting issues in these posts.

On the question of privacy and young people, I wonder if the outcomes of the 'Challenging Myths about Young People and the Internet' workshop from this years IGF might be useful. The transcript is accessible from that link, and I've just uploaded the workshop report where discussions highlighted that there are many different notions of privacy (indeed, Solove's taxonomy of privacy finds many things meant by threat to p...), and far from not caring, young people care a lot about privacy - although, like all people, they sometimes struggle to manage their own privacy effectively in the increasingly complex world we're in. However, the tactics used to tell young people about privacy often assume they don't care, or use scare tactics which can be counterproductive. 

I'd suggest that privacy as a concept is here to stay - but the different trade-off decisions we've always made about privacy are changing in the Internet age, and helping people make good decisions about the different trade-offs involved in privacy is important - as is challenging terms of service that suggest we have to trade all control over our creative content in order to receive online services. 


On Intellectual property, I think it's useful to distinguish 'moral rights' and 'copy rights'. Copyrights, the right to restrict others re-use of material in order to profit from the material, do make less-and-less sense in an era when the marginal cost of sharing material tends towards nothing - and where all information tends to be a combination of many sources - such that restrictive copyright hampers, rather than promotes, creativity and innovation. However, moral rights - the right to get credit for your work - becomes even more important in the modern economy, where rather than profiting from abundant copy-able material, individuals are more likely to make their living through selling their scarce time for live performances, or expert consultancy etc. etc. 





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