Talking tech since 2003

Yet here we are, staring the cold, hard truth right in the face: for all of the boundless potential the Internet holds, and for the seemingly limitless amounts of information the Web puts at our fingertips, this worldwide network of ours might not be as great as we think it is.

Before yesterday, I was just cursing the fact that the Internet warped the concept of media ownership into something else entirely. We don’t own songs anymore — we license them. And our video games are headed down that same path. Thanks to protections built into the Xbox One console and its games, we’ll no longer own those, either. We won’t be able to loan them to friends. We won’t be able to play them without connecting to the Internet once per day. And, should we decide we want to sell them, we’ll have to hope that game publishers enable that “feature” that was missing from consoles of generations past.

And what allows this ridiculous game licensing system to operate? What lets Microsoft peek in on your console to see if you own the license to that game you’re playing? The Internet.

morgan_freeman_batman_the_dark_knight_desktop_1920x1080_wallpaper-444270But, gosh, video games are small potatoes when compared to the enormous can of digital worms opened up yesterday by the Washington Post and the Guardian. This Internet, the one that connects us to friends around the world, lets us access our data anywhere and, according to so many, is the future of our economy, is the Holy Grail of surveillance for our own government.

Companies named in those damning reports include Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL and more — most of which have crafted carefully-worded denials that sound all too similar to one another. I’m frankly not surprised that the government would implement and exert these overreaching powers to scan our online communications, but there’s something painful about hearing that such a program indeed exists — and, worse yet, that our elected representatives have known about it for years.

And the companies involved? If the PRISM stories are indeed accurate and these companies have willingly gone along with wide-reaching surveillance of the American people, so much for all of that talk about protecting user privacy.

It should make you think long and hard about how you use the Internet in the future, that’s for sure. Businesses and governments have taken this beautiful invention, this collection of fiber lines and radio waves that makes so many astonishing things possible, and have bastardized it. And the actions taken by these bodies have tainted any further innovations that connect us to each other or use our data to make our lives a little easier, because none of that feels safe from prying eyes or ears anymore.

“Beautiful. Unethical. Dangerous.” These are the words Lucius Fox used to describe Batman’s cell phone surveillance system in The Dark Knight, and they feel appropriate when looking toward PRISM, or even Microsoft’s silly game licensing system. Unfortunately, our quest to smoke out the bad guys appears to be never-ending, and companies like Microsoft will continue to invent new, suffocating ways to squeeze every last dollar out of us.

This looks like the new reality for the Internet. It’s certainly not the one I signed up for, but should Monday come and everyone’s forgotten about the grotesque abuses of this network, I suppose I’ll have to live with it.


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