Virtual Surveillance Challenges Privacy, as We All Log On

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Nothing is left to chance. You design persuasive paths based on personas to provide visitors with the information they want, when they want it, in language that speaks to their individual needs.”

The marketing industry is also investigating, and refining measurements of responses to ads, including brain behaviors involving both cognition and emotion. Lets also consider that Google has applied for a patent for “a method by which an end user accessing the Internet via a wireless access point (WAP) would be served advertisements based on factors such as the geographic location, a behavioral profile and local vertical market.” (Kevin Newcomb: to the head of the multimedia department at Nokia,180 million Nokia phones will ship or be downloaded in 2008 with the ability to beam “location-aware content.”

Using various new technologies together online media conglomerates will be able to beam you real time ads on your phone while you’re talking with a friend. The ad could be based on your conversation, location, and the known reaction you’ll have - based on emotional and cognitive brain research. Kids are on the front line of this distopian future of ubiquitous commercial surveillance.

Last January, Nickelodeon launched its kid virtual world Nicktropolis. Vice president of Nickelodeon Online Properties, Jason Root, recently said “We're going to have a great immersive experience both with kids and advertisers. Nicktropolis has 5.5 million kid users.

Concentrated Power Must Be Challenged

Clearly we cannot allow this big business regulation of the Internet to continue unchallenged. There are three levers we can use to keep the new media cartel in check:

1. Push for public interest policy that limits the new media cartels ability to exploit web users. The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) are fighting these battles on our behalf in Ottawa.

2. Build public campaigns to limit and roll back exploitation of web users by new media giants. MoveOn’s recent successful campaign was able to get Facebook to reframe from the worst of its predatory practices.

3. Support new media public benefit spaces and services that respect web users’ privacy and our right to unencumbered online navigation. This lever is perhaps the most effective and successful, but maybe the least acknowledged.

The prime success stories of public benefit online media are probably Wikipedia and Firefox. Both of these projects use open-source code, meaning the software is openly available to use and build upon, and are owned by non-profit foundations.

The defining characteristic of these two projects and others like them is that they are both operated as public benefit operations, meaning they are geared towards generating benefits for the public collectively rather then just increasing the profits of shareholders.

The FireFox browser has a miniscule marketing budget, yet has grown to become Microsoft’s number one competitor in this area, even surpassing the very savvy Apple Corporation.

It is the openness of FireFox that attracts developers to add applications that allow you to block advertisements and other highly sought services.

Firefox has been downloaded over 448 million times. The non-profit, open-source, citizen produced Wikipedia is touted as “one of the 15 most visited websites in the world”.

What these, and many the public benefit web have not quite tackled yet is the ever-popular social networking community.

Free Speech TV is in the process of doing just that. They are building a social networking and video sharing community that is non-profit, non-commercial, and built an open-source software platform called Drupal.

What these examples begin to show us is that we have a reliable and growing public benefit web infrastructure available to us.

While fighting for public interest policy and organizing web users each remain key activities in the fight for our right to an open Internet, nothing scares this new media cartel more than real competition.

The public interest group MoveOn recently was able to get over 50,000 people to sign a petition against the Facebook Beacon. As a result Facebook backed off from the worst of their Beacon service due to this profound expression of public discontent. This should serve as a reminder that the new media cartel needs us more then we need them.

The second we collectively decide we want a more open, independent and free web we will have it.

It’s Our Web, Not Theirs

To find out more about the independent public benefit web visit:
Steve Anderson is the publisher at COA News (

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