Freedom of information: The Internet as harbinger of the new Dark Ages

Roger Clarke


There's a common presumption that the Internet has brought with it the promise of openness, democracy, the end of inequities in the distribution of information, and human self-fulfillment. Any such conclusion would be premature.
The digital era has amused and beguiled us all. Its first-order impacts are being assimilated, but its second-order implications are not. Powerful institutions perceive their interests to be severely threatened by the last decade of technological change and by the shape of the emergent 'information economy'. Elements of their fight back are identified, particularly extensions to legal protectionism, and the active development and application of technologies that protect data from prying eyes.
Many of the features that have ensured a progressive balance between data protection and freedom of access to data have already been seriously eroded. The new balance that emerges from the current period of turmoil may be far less friendly to public access and more like a New Dark Ages.

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