Digitalization : Jeff Jarvis: "Recall the spirit of Gutenberg"01.12.2011 14:21 Uhr
The "Verpixelungsrecht" is a dangerous precedent for public space
We do not know the shape of our future world. In fact, we are just beginning to build it. So I ask you to assure the freedom and power of the tools we need to do that. I ask you to beware the unintended consequences of even well-meaning regulation. Consider these restrictions built around privacy:
· The "Verpixelungsrecht", the right to be pixilated in Google Street View, sets what I believe is a dangerous precedent for public space: If Google can be pressured into blurring public views taken from public streets, cannot also journalists or citizens who want to witness and share the image of, say, police corruption in public? I hear some say that Google should not be able to make money on a public view. Should an artist? And if permission is needed, who has the right to grant it: the resident, the owner, the architect, the builder? What are the principles at work here?
· In her four pillars of internet regulation, the EU’s Viviane Reding has argued for a right to be forgotten. That sounds appealing. But what if you tell me as a writer or a publisher that I must forget and erase what I have written about you? Does not also impinge upon my right of free speech? Do we truly want to regulate the free flow of knowledge that is already known?
· Germany’s Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, Peter Schaar, has argued for privacy by default. But if that default had been imposed on, say, the photo service Flickr, people would not have shared their pictures and built communities around them and tags such as “funny.” I don’t know that I want to live in a society that is private by default. I’d prefer one that is social by default.
· In the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, COPPA, restricts sites from using any information about a child under 13. This, too, sounds sensible. But there have been unintended consequences: First, we teach our children to lie. Researcher danah boyd found that more than half of 12-year-old have Facebook pages – and 76 percent created their accounts with the help of their parents. Parents say they don’t want governments making these decisions. The real impact of COPPA, from my experience, is that companies won’t create sites for children because the risk is too great. The result: children are the worst-served sector of society online. That’s a tragedy.
· There are efforts to filter all content online to get to child porn in Austria or piracy in Belgium and perhaps soon the U.S. I agree with the European Court of Justice’s recent decision invalidating such a law, arguing that it hurts internet business and that it challenges the privacy of users and their right to exchange information freely.
· In the U.S., there are efforts to pass Do Not Track legislation, though users already have the means to turn off and erase cookies. The unintended consequence of this, I fear, could be reduced support for media and less content online.
· Finally, Nikolas Sarkozy argued in Avignon recently that culture has a “distribution problem.” I say just the opposite: culture has solved its distribution problem now that anyone can find an audience anywhere. It’s the legacy distributors who have a distribution problem: They’re not needed as much anymore. Sarkozy is trying to defend old media and its old economy, not the culture.
That is what power does: defend itself. That is what technology does: disrupt. What we are seeing is a struggle between power and change. We are witnessing also our effort to find the right balance between private and public, the individual and the community.
This adjustment is not new. Such conflict is frequently the case when new technologies introduce change, from the Gutenberg Parenthesis to the invention of the Kodak camera, which led to the first serious discussion of a legal right to privacy in the U.S. (for a time, President Teddy Roosevelt outlawed “kodaking” in Washington parks). Other technologies have caused similar fears, similar adjustments: from microphones to video cameras. Today, Peter Schaar lists radio chips, locater beacons, biometric & DNA identification, and others. It is well and good to worry about the worst that new technologies can bring and to try to prevent it. But if we manage life only at the worst case, we will never imagine and build the best case.
I must emphasize that private and public are not opposites; they are not at war. They are a continuum, like hot and cold, wet and dry. We must have both. One depends upon the other. Thus I urge you to pay attention not only to the risks to privacy brought by technology but also to the benefits of publicness. They are many.
· Publicness makes and improves relationships. There’s a reason 800 million people are on Facebook and it’s not that they’re all insane or drunk. We want to connect with one another; we are social. Mark Zuckberberg told me he is not changing human nature but enabling it.
· Publicness, openness, and transparency breed trust, especially in politics and business.
· Publicness enables collaboration, which is a powerful force in building better companies and governments.
· Publicness unleashes the wisdom of the crowd. See Wikipedia.
· Publicness disarms strangers and also stigmas. The most powerful weapon gays and lesbians had to beat back the bigots who forced them into closets was to break out of those closets and challenge prejudice. No one should ever be forced into the public but those who had the courage to be public accomplished much.
I found much benefit in publicness when I wrote about my prostate cancer, about my malfunctioning penis. That might seem insane in this era of privacy, to violate the most private of information about my own private parts. But I gained great benefit: support, information, and the opportunity to inspire other men to be tested.
I would urge us to think about the good that could come if we were all more open about, for example, our health: sharing data; discovering correlations that could save lives or find cures; offering support to each other. Why aren’t we so open? In the United States we fear losing insurance; you don’t have that problem. We fear losing jobs, but that can be dealt with legislatively. What really holds us back from talking about sickness is the stigma around it, but that is society’s problem. In a modern society, why should anyone be ashamed of being sick? That is the kind of issue we should be grappling with, the kind of adjustment we should be considering in this new and public age.