The (un)freedom of the networked

The web has a dual nature - it promotes some freedoms and endangers many others. Making the most of it will mean fighting for it (from the archive, 2008)

Tony Curzon Price
Tony Curzon Price
27 July 2013

In 2008, I was invited by a free market think-tank to present something about the Internet and freedom. I published it back then on openDemocracy in 3 parts (over here). At the time, I'd been a bit disappointed in the piece. It didn't come off the fence - so what would the web be doing to liberty? There just were these great opposing forces - there would be a rebirth of collective organisation, especially small-scale. And the huge databases would attract corporations, states and would build some kind of Kafka/Orwell hybrid. The Snowden revelations reminded me of the piece, and comforted me that whatever else was wrong about it, it truly demonstrated this dual nature of the web. Social media played a part in the Arab Spring. And our intelligence services are feasting on the data trail we willingly leave everywhere we click. And since the old version of the piece had suffered decay at the hands of a cloud service that I'd used to host all the visuals that went bust, I thought I'd re-issue a brand-new version. Thank you Scribd.

The freedom of the networked. (2008)  (Reload the page if the embed does not appear below)


Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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