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Track and Truth: Manning and the "Other" Surveillance System

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* Finally, even the opt-in capability means nothing because there are so many exceptions in the rules that companies can use and exploit. So even if you explicitly turn the Do Not Track option on, your information will be tracked and shared. That's like pulling all the teeth out of a watchdog's mouth.

So the people at the Mozilla Foundation, who produce the Firefox browser (the web's best and most open browser), screamed in frustration and developed their own, more stringent, standards. They built an add-on, called "Collusion", that tracks who is tracking you. We've yet to see how that will play out -- the add-on is still in experimental stage.

But even if Firefox's Collusion helps us, one problem remains: people are forced to make a product decision in order to protect constitutionally-supported privacy. There's always a way to turn these things off but most people don't know it and most don't know they're being tracked. Is the right to privacy a commodity? Can violations of privacy hide behind a "buyer beware" warning?

What's more, shouldn't there be some governance over what companies can do with that data?

What's correct? It seems simple. When you visit a website that installs tracking cookies, you get a message explaining that this is happening and what it means. Then you get to choose whether you want that or not and you cannot see the site without making that choice. That's not going to happen but it should because that's the right to privacy that we all have and on which the Internet is built.

Both tracking and the Manning decision are, in their own way, a radical challenge to what the Internet is and should continue to be. They are fundamentally linked. If you have the right to get any information you want and post any information you think should be posted, you have the right to do so privately without governments and companies knowing who you are and how to get to you. If we lose the latter right, we will find ourselves coldly restricted in exercising the former right because the truth is always a threat to those who seek to control it.
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These days, those in power fit that category perfectly.
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Alfredo Lopez is a member of the This Can't Be Happening on-line publication collective where he covers technology and Co-Chair of the Leadership Committee of May First/People Link.

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