Valuing and Protecting Our Internet Community
Posted by rebeccab2828
He “ruffled” me from the start.
I have been obsessively returning to this post, trying to edit the length and the “insane person on a mission against cyber crime” tone. There have been so many revisions that I am starting to think maybe I AM a crazy person who takes the topic too personally.
Chapter 6 of Net Smart disturbed me, or rather the first page and a half did. While I realize Rheingold’s objective was a broad discussion about internet privacy and security, and not specifically cyber crimes, the comments he did make about it were unsettling to me. He made security invasion seem like “par for the course,” that to some extent, we should shrug off and accept it (239).
“Internet Invasion” IS a home invasion.
Internet security and data-surveillance (or “dataveillance” as Rheingold refers to) is often approached from the direction of how network users should protect themselves. While their social media usage may provide a possible entryway for their privacy to be violated, it shouldn’t be mistaken for an open door.
There is a duality to our life. We reside in two very real communities: the “real world” and the virtual world. Our cyber “dwellings” should have an assumption of safety like our physical dwellings. I would be horrified if someone entered my home uninvited and proceeded to rifle through my file cabinet, taking any document of interest. I can’t imagine anyone suggesting that it was “to be expected.”
Guaranteed security and protection is hard to come by.
Rheingold–and many others–have no hesitation suggesting privacy violations on the internet “are to be expected.” He passively responds by telling us, “While not advocating collective surrender on the legal and judicial front, I do suggest that your best individual defense at the moment is know-how…. You will still be surveilled. But at least you can be informed.” I imagine if Mr. Rheingold had the same low expectations of “real world” security, when the stranger enters my house and takes the documents from my cabinet, he might say something like: “You could call the police, but let’s consider getting a locked file cabinet instead and maybe hiding the more important documents under your matress. It’s probably best to accept that things like this happen.” I get the feeling this is when he might give me a fatherly pat on the hand.
Rheingold also mentions “privacy advocates” and how we can’t depend on them to protect us because they lack the financial and political resources to act on our behalf. Advocates? How about having faith in law enforcement to protect? I realize they are busy fighting “real world” crime. And yes, I know tax dollars are always being fought for. But, we wouldn’t suggest the police department conserve manpower by only fighting crime in half of their local communities. We also seem happy to utilize legal and judicial means to seek fair punishment for crimes that we don’t even suffer personal harm from. We take corporations to the “judicial mat” when we discover they have lied to stockholders about their business practices. We force politicians, in judicial hearings, to share humiliating details of their inappropriate personal affairs. The guy on the other end of the computer, who is scavenging for an innocent person’s personal information, will certainly inflict personal harm to his victim.
Although I am not about to high-five the politician with a mistress, I care more about my neighbor’s identity theft causing her bank account to go into overdraft. As an extension of either of our communities, cyber or “real world,” we need to care and be cautious that our language reflects the concerns of our neighbors.
A few years ago, I received harassing legal threats, sent from a supposed lawyer, threatening legal action. The initial communication was sent through the mail. He demanded I respond via email. As the “lawyer’s” address turned out to fictitious, but they personal details of mine, I wanted to report it. I contacted the The Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Center. They sent me to my local law enforcement. The local police department sent me to The Federal Law Enforcement and Security Arm of the U.S Postal Service, who also said it was not their jurisdiction.
In my situation, law enforcement was so busy identifying which “community” had responsibility that I wasn’t protected like a citizen of any of them. When the majority–those who connect via the internet and in-person–stops diminishing their voices by endlessly discussing user responsibility and the futility of trying to protect our internet “neighborhood”–than the agencies set in place to protect us, will be compelled to evolve as well. Then they can share responsibility for protecting citizens that are part of multiple neighborhoods.
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