(mis)adventures in software development...

12 January 2015

Hello 2015, and goodbye online freedom and privacy

Category Technology

Some cheery predictions for 2015

It’s that time, as the new year gets underway, and memories of New Year’s hangovers recede, where many a second-rate writer wastes many words attempting to predict what’s ahead for the new year.

Since describing my blogging attempts as “second-rate” would be exceedingly generous — and with slim chance my online ramblings will have anyone of sane disposition mistake me for a writer — I feel I have little credibility to lose by throwing my contribution into the mix.

In 2015, the disturbing trends of recent years will no doubt continue — mass surveillance by governments, erosion of digital rights, widespread invasion of privacy, stupid software patents, and Luddite legislators enacting stupid laws affecting the tech industry.

This year will be more of the same. It’s a war, against us, and our freedom. We, the users and developers of technology, will lose. Politicians and large corporations will win. Again.

This will likely be the year the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be finalised. The TPP means more power for large corporations, and less for consumers and governments. It means consumers will pay more for everything from movies to medication. It means governments will become more vulnerable to lawsuits from multinational corporations. It means countries will be forced to introduce draconian copyright provisions that criminalise infringement and significantly curb online freedom.

In the US, this will probably be the year that the battle for net neutrality will be lost, setting a disturbing precedent for the rest of the world. For those unsure about the implications of net neutrality, is was nicely summed up by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight as “cable company fuckery… because that is what it is.”

Is there anything more disturbing than the prospect of cable companies becoming more powerful?

2015 will be a year of even more mass surveillance by governments. In the US there’s already a staggering amount of mass surveillance being undertaken by the NSA and other government agencies, and this will no doubt keep increasing.

Other countries also have data retention regimes in place to routinely spy on their own citizens, and more are likely to join the mass surveillance circle jerk, despite little evidence it helps in combating crime or preventing terrorism.

Never one to let evidence get in the way of bad policy, in 2015 the Australian government will introduce its own flawed mandatory data retention scheme, conveniently ignoring evidence showing similar schemes in other countries have failed to provide any benefit.

Last year, the Australian government successfully introduced legislation that undermined basic democratic rights of free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, and the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. This year, they will continue their attack on democracy by eliminating our right to privacy through mandatory data retention. And possibly restrict our internet access by introducing a filtering scheme.

Throughout all this, I’m sure many technology literate people will respond with much anger and vitriol on social media, along with the occasional well reasoned blog post or article. But as in previous years, none of that which will achieve anything. We will lose. Because this is a war against us, but it’s not a war where facts or logic matter. It’s a war where money, spin, corporations, and political lobbying decide the outcomes.

In 2015, as in years before, the politicians and their corporate masters will get their way.

Happy new year!