I appreciate Brin’s optimistic perspective of the online community, and I think that the internet has the potential to allow us to keep watch over governments, employers, and other entities that in most cases have the upper hand. In reality, however, the public will not have equal access to surveillance through use of the internet if the “power elite” continue to have the ability to filter the information we can access by using search engines.
I certainly value privacy, but I initially agreed that a system which allows the watched to also be watchers is better than a system in which one group of individuals is able to watch another group. I think that corporations and the government would definitely operate in a more ethical manner if the leaders knew that they were being constantly watched by the public. On the other hand, I recently read a Wikipedia page dedicated to every political scandal in the United States, and I was pretty disturbed. I’m not sure that I need or want to have all of this information. If the public had unlimited access to personal information about government officials we may never be able to trust or respect these individuals. Additionally, I often wonder how many individuals with potential to be great leaders have shied away from running for office because they are afraid of what private and scandalous information may surface.
Would you rather have access to every bit of personal information about our government officials and risk losing trust and respect for that person? or accept your role as the “watched” rather than the “watcher” and ignore your curiosity about what goes on behind closed doors of the government and other institutions?
I haven’t decided.