This is a mainstream film from the BBC’s Horizon documentary team made in 2014 about the issues of surveillance, privacy, encryption, and the uses of the dark web to protect ourselves from governments and corporations, but how that also allows others to engage in illegal activities.
The film begins by looking how, with the rise of the internet of things, especially within the household, privacy is becoming dangerously rare. Every communication, every purchase, even waking, sleeping and feeding habits are data that can be useful to someone else.
It then goes back to the founding of the internet, and some of the pioneers, like David Chaum, who saw the dangers in the 80s, and found ways to avoid those dangers. Unfortunately at the time these solutions were not utilised or standardised, and because of that an opportunity was lost which we are still regretting today.
The film moves on to look at how anonymity over the internet in recent times, through the development of the Tor network, has allowed revelations about the war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan to be released; how activists in the Middle East used it to topple oppressive governments; and it also tracks the rise of the anonymous online marketplace, the Silk Road and others. This also brings in anonymous money: Bitcoin, and how transactions can be made without revealing IDs using this technology.
The film, for my liking, itself is a bit too ‘balanced’. The fact is you can’t have privacy without someone using it for nefarious ends. But this has always been so. We do not have to give up the privacy of everyone so we can catch the wrongdoings of a tiny minority. It should be obvious, but those who seek control of populations, or to profit from them, whether it be in states like China, or in corporations like google, will argue otherwise, as it brings great benefits to them.
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