How to deal with decreasing awesomeness of the internet

Is the internet well? Opinions may differ, but I'm here to evangelize mine: No, the internet is not well. The problem is with the concept of the internet as a place of freedom; a place where anything can be said and done, and shared with everyone all over the world.

That functionality, although it still exists, is becoming more and more regulated. The authorities have caught up, and certain things are starting to move to the fringes (eg. Tor hidden sites). It starts with all the blatantly illegal things, but whole-internet censorship is really not far away in many countries, including the UK, where I live.

It's not just legality issues that are making the internet less free, a far worse culprit is monetization. Youtube clips have ads on them, streaming websites throw ads in as well. No more free database service for you; the internet rule of the day is that either you pay premium, or you accept that you'll get annoyed at crap advertisements that people throw at you.

Then there's politics. Surveillance. All of these reasons make it very likely that, a few years from now, you'll no longer be able to access your favorite service for free. You don't have to agree with this, of course. Perhaps you think that the internet will be a happy shiny perfect place in 5 years, but in my opinion signs point in the other direction.

So what to do? First things first: GET YOUR DATA OUT. Never, ever, keep your only copies of things in Flickr, Facebook, Google or even Dropbox. Don't trust backup services either; they're a nice extra, but they may go bankrupt or become unreachable any time. Think of the legal issues involved: do you know exactly which files you are backing up, and do you know the rules of possessing those files in the country you are storing your backups in? I'm guessing no.

In the Netherlands it used to be legal to make a copy of any copyrighted thing, as long as it is for your own personal use and you won't commercialize it. That is no longer true, because it conflicts with European regulations which override it. Historically, this kind of thing has been hard to enforce, but the authorities have done an amazing job of catching up, and they're only going to get more in-your-face about it in the future. If you can legally justify getting something that's available in your country right now, get it now. Laws will change, availability will decrease, and you will be branded a criminal for doing something that was legal just a few years ago.

Edit: perhaps I was wrong. Google Earth was one of things I was thinking of while writing this, and I expected the free version to go away in the future. Instead, one day after I wrote this, Google made Earth Pro free. Perhaps the 'users are the product' philosophy will set us all free?



Posted in Tech , Thoughts