Is the rise of a largely unsecured Internet, of big data and of instantaneous mass communication a threat to our privacy from governments and corporations, or an opportunity for citizens? At the same time as Western activists have exposed and denounced the government use of online communications to invade our privacy, activists in the developing world have seized these same techniques and technologies and turned them against authoritarian governments, as a liberating tool.
How can we get the upper hand on big data and the surveillance state, using policies, campaigns and politics, to turn information technology back into an instrument of democracy?
Doug Saunders: A decade ago, talk about online communication and the wired life was all about its democratizing potential: it would open up government, allow social movements to organize, free people from a monolithic media and provide many opportunities for formerly marginalized voices to be heard. Now we talk about threats posed by that same online life: Spy agencies use it to perform mass surveillance on many if not all civilians. Corporations buy vast tranches of our data and use them in privacy-compromising ways. And authoritarian regimes use it to censor, monitor and persecute dissent. Is the internet now being used against us?