Teach kids to value their information
Posted by Martin Poulter on 18 May 2009
An extract well worth transcribing from novelist and blogger Cory Doctorow’s contribution to a session of this year’s Convention on Modern Liberty.
“You don’t defend people against ID theft by gathering mountains of sensitive personal information and leaving it around where any muppet from the HMRC might leave it on the Tube.
“Databases are immortal, pluripotent and infinitely fecund: that which the internet has learned, it will never forget. Paris Hilton’s genitals are immortal. When you collect information on 25 million households, it doesn’t matter that someone lost it today; they’re gonna lose it eventually. I’m a novelist: I know that the gun on the mantel in act one is destined to go off in act three.
“And kids are the beta-testers of the surveillance state. We know when we look at the empirical evidence that kids are at the greatest risk, not from strangers on the internet, but from the authority figures in their lives. If we want to make kids safe from pedophiles, we should teach them to distrust authority; to resist adults who tell them what to do. Kids are not made safer by wiretapping their every click and surveilling their entire internet experience.
“Indeed, if you want to make kids safer on the internet, teach them that their information matters. Teach them to use cryptographic tools, to secure their protocols, to break every law, to get outside every firewall, and to learn to seize the means of information, and by so doing we will teach them to be participating citizens of the information society.
“The technocratic model is the Singaporean model, but at least in Singapore the trains run on time. If the Government is going to take away our liberty and replace it with technology to make our lives more efficient, they should at least deliver on the efficiency.
“These are indeed dangerous times, and they need a response to protect us against all the people who would attack us, whether they do that with a bomb or a law.”