Social networks are the defining cultural movement of our time, empowering us in constantly evolving ways. We can all now be reporters, alerting the world to breaking news; participate in crowd-sourced scientific research; and become investigators, helping the police solve crimes. Social networks have even helped to bring down governments. But they have also greatly accelerated the erosion of our personal privacy rights – and anyone could become a victim.
If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest nation in the world. While that nation appears to be a comforting small town in which we socialize with our selective group of friends, it and the rest of the Web are actually lawless frontiers of hidden and unpredictable dangers. The same power of information that can topple governments can destroy a person’s career or marriage.
As leading expert on social networks and privacy Lori Andrews shows through groundbreaking research and a host of stunning stories of abuses, as we work and chat and shop and date over the Web, we are opening ourselves up to increasingly intrusive and anonymous surveillance by employers, schools, lawyers, the police, and aggressive data aggregator services. Some mobile Web devices are even being programmed to listen in on us and feed data services a steady stream of information about what we are doing. Even the best services can’t remove our personal data from the Web for long.
As Andrews shows, the legal system cannot be counted on to protect us. In the thousands of cases brought to trial by those whose rights have been violated, judges have most often ruled against them. That is why, in addition to revealing the dangers and providing the best expert advice about protecting ourselves, Andrews proposes that we all become supporters of a constitution for the Web, which she has drafted and introduces in this book. Now is the time to join her and take action – the very future of privacy is at stake.
Lori Andrews is a law professor and the director of the Institute for Science, Law, and Technology at Illinois Institute of Technology. She has served as a regular advisor to the US government on ethical issues regarding new technologies and was the chair of the federal committee on ethical and legal issues concerning the Human Genome Project.