The Newspaper reviews of the year largely make for depressing reading though good news rarely sells newspapers.
John Naughton in the Observer though makes some profound points when he says essentially that Facebook Google et al have given us all so much freedom, ability to learn and keep in touch, that we have until recently, not really troubled to inquire about the price or should I say cost, of these C21 media tools.
John Naughton's article is especially interesting this week and has been given pride of place by the Observer as well as unusually featuring in their editorial comment section, albeit admittedly only as the paper's third comment. Mr Naughton covers many internet and computer points in his writings and I dare say he is hoping that the comments he makes will boost sales of his book. None the less he is always a very relevant read not least because many of his points have more than a small grain of truth to them.
A point he makes and my apologies to him and the Observer if I have misinterpreted his article, which is surely fundamental, concerns the original concept of the internet being largely free from government interference and control.
He suggests that the 9/11 killings appalling and terrifying though they were, are leading to what now he argues is a serious mis-reaction by the US government and others.
It seems that people's use of sites like facebook and google et al, make it pretty easy for government concerns to access private data and information. Apparently the attraction of sites of that kind to ordinary people is so great that we users almost without a second thought, agree to the site owners accessing our data. Serious though that may be that does not appear to be Mr Naughton's main concern.
I have always known that my blogging on Google is allowing anyone who wishes to access the data I publish but have surmised that not too many people, government agencies or otherwise would spend much time in so doing. However the huge problem highlighted in the Observer today and elsewhere, is that of State access to individuals' personal or private information that people have not chosen to publish.
In the West we largely assume that the State leaves us to lead our lives as we choose subject to respecting the rights and liberties of others. The state certainly steps in to assist the disadvantaged and of course where issues of the infrastructure needs of society such as railway, housing, planning and health provision might clash with those of individuals or tax payers but Mr Naughton's concern is about the state going far further and using the internet to do so.
No, he understands that the US government secret service type agencies have not been able to resist accessing that American private company data to further its own 'War on Terror'. Of course the British GCHQ and others do much the same. The net result is that individual privacy and personal rights to communicate without third parties having details (absent a criminal warrant first being sought) are at risk of going with the wind.
Mobile phones are another source of information being easily available to the state though thankfully I hardly ever use one so can comment little beyond saying that they seem to me to be over-used these days any way.
John Naughton does not seem to be saying that the internet is no longer safe but he does point out that some more savvy users are switching from major operators which have what he considers to be oppressive terms and conditions of use and/or which are accessed secretly by the State, to smaller less well known operators.
His article in my humble opinion suffers from following the Observer and Guardian line of praising Wikileak' s Snowden whereas my own view is that Snowden's methods were as questionable as those of the government agencies he attacks. The old 'two wrongs do not make a right' adage comes to mind.
Nonetheless Mr Naughton's concerns about data which the individual might regard as private, being available without judicial warrant, to the State and the use to which that may be put by the State are thought provoking and I congratulate John Naughton on his analysis of them.