Apr 19, 2010
The combination of these readings and the given topic of “privacy and the internet” led me to consider if the internet should be viewed as a sort of “modern panopticon.” To be such, in the traditional sense, all actions on the internet would have to be publicly available in real time, open to unseen observation by any casual passerby. Clearly, the internet is not this open a space. However, if you ignore the “real time” clause, it can be. So much information on the internet, be it public or private, is logged and saved somewhere. Those facebook pictures will never really disappear, and there are massive databanks that save cached versions of websites on a regular basis, a sort of “history of the internet.” If you were called under judgement by the world at large, all of your personal data, all of your private decisions and actions, could (especially in the minds of the most paranoid) come out into the public space. If you are never truly anonymous on the internet, then everything you do can someday be observed, and in this sense the internet qualifies as a sort of “modern panopticon.” In some ways, it is even worse, since in a traditional panopticon if you take a forbidden action, you will soon know whether you got away with it or were observed. On the internet, observation is not time dependent, so any actions you take can be observed at any time in the future, a fact which ought to be almost paralyzing to anyone who really believes it.
Of course, I believe that few really believe this, and just as the panopticon is ineffective without the fear of constant observation, so is this evil specter of the internet.