E-dialogues: The internet will make us freer … or not

Sergio López de Arbina Aznar

Political Communication Adviser


The casuistry around the risks derived from the digital sphere and the culture of the digital screen is extensive, and its effects have been noted (not without some innate yet excessive intrigue to the human being), even in the management of information previously secrets of governments and transnational organizations. The temptation to focus on time bombs such as Wikileaks or Mr. Snowden’s papers is great, but the vulnerability extends its tentacles to engross the privacy and supposed freedom of each individual in daily actions such as making an online purchase or Chat with your colleagues via WhatsApp.

The communication app has had to deal precisely with several fronts that threatened its reputation as well as that of its creator; a diabolical creature as the most skeptical would call him, but I will not be the one to defend such extreme terminology. One of them was filtered by the CNI (National Centre of Intelligence of Spain) itself in a devastating report about the risks of using WhatsApp, as well as the vulnerability of the information provided by its users in the registration processes. Anyone can do with our user account, read the messages received and send communications on our behalf, warns the National Cryptological Center.

In this context, one could ask who upholds fundamental rights both outside the internet and within it. Do governments monitor us? An affirmative answer will scandalize a few, but it would be unfair to make them the sole target of our anger. Not in vain, globalized markets defined by financial transactions and devoid of ethics have created the capitalist germ of a new Big Brother: corporations. These compete for the attention of the user in that parallel world to which we have agreed to denominate as the “internet”. They are therefore competing for the intangible that can bring them the greatest economic benefit under the rules of the digital business model (a model so often called into question and, even today, diffuse in terms of return on advertising investment, for example).

From there, the behavioral profiles of internet users is worth collecting and analyzing to diseased limits, leaving the traditional segmentations by criteria such as age, sex or origin obsolete, and achieving much more specialized niches based on psychological characteristics and attitudes. The indecent amounts paid for these studies, not to mention the technological developments that make it possible to extrapolate this information through relational marketing tools and others, seem to endorse this practice of hijacking the privacy of people behind the mantle of a goal to adapt the supply to the needs of the demand.

Bad news: we continue to lose our anonymous character. We did it in creation or authorship, and now we do it in mere observation or reading. Where we think we go unnoticed, where we think we are still free, we fall victim to a system that promises to make us freer. Perhaps the eternal dichotomy between security and freedom also finds one of its maximum expressions. And to all this, what is Europe doing to the challenge before us? For now, to wander through a new regulation, strongly criticized by activists and legal experts, which de facto grants free access to operators to prioritize traffic on the internet with commercial interests. That is, anything but protect what has come to be called “net neutrality”. No surprises, in any case. It is the advantage of being, at least in this matter, an avowed skeptic.


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