Apparently, I still am. In this piece in The Age recently, ‘arf’ commented
“I first encountered this notion in ‘The Transparent Society‘. The author (David Brin) is better known for his sf, but is quite up to writing a serious and thoughtful tome such as this. The main point is that, like it or not, the technology that allows universal surveillance is coming, and it will be used. The question then becomes how to deal with it.
Brin contends that the best approach is to insist on reciprocation: to watch the watchers. This is probably where Zuckerberg has picked up his philosophy of ‘radical philosophy’. It should be noted, however, that Brin does not advocate it aggressively, as Zuckerberg appear to be doing.” (links here are added by me.)
Having had a look at Brin’s website for his book, he’s a bit more optimistic about the power held by the masses than I am. He writes
“Our society has one great knack above all others — one that no other ever managed — that of holding the mighty accountable. Although elites of all kinds still have many advantages over commonfolk, never before have citizens been so empowered. And history shows that this didn’t happen by blinding the mighty — a futile endeavor that has never worked. It happened by insisting that everybody get to see. By citizens demanding the power to know.”
I honestly don’t know if he’s right about this or not. My head tells me that he probably is, assuming that ‘we’ means the one billion or less white western folk who take the internet for granted and not the whole 7 billion folk, many of whom don’t even have a reliable dial-up connection. It’s a point I’ll be reflecting – and reading – on in the near future. I say that Brin’s more optimistic than I am, though, because my heart tells me that most of this power is illusory. The mass media and bloggers have been commenting on the data mining that companies like Google and Facebook – and many others – indulge in, and those discussions aren’t being shut down. The data mining isn’t stopping, though. Facebook’s user base is still growing – it DOUBLED between July ,09 and July ’10 – and they keep coming up with new ways to gather and use the data.
That doesn’t make me feel too powerful.