Park benches on the internet

Park benches are really important. They are places where you can grab a seat by yourself and read without anyone else knowing what you're reading. Or sit with a friend and chat and not be overheard. Or step out at midday with a work colleague to complain about your boss or plan your startup, without being listened to. 

Our actions on the Internet are listened to. Monitored. Scraped. Mined. Stored. If you read a book on a Kindle, Amazon knows the page number where you stopped. Read blogs, websites, Tumblr posts, newsletters - all tracked. Social media - stored. Text messages - stored. Search history - stored.

There are no park benches on the Internet. 

Why does this matter to civil society and philanthropy?

In order to develop independent ideas, we need places to think and learn without fear of being wrong or curious or different. We need private places where can study new ideas or develop different ways of framing a problem or try out someone else's ideas. Only then do we come together with others to debate, discuss, make plans, take action, make change. With no private place to think or read there is no space for ideas to develop. Without the development and exchange of ideas there is no free expression. Without places to debate and exchange and share and discuss and improve those ideas, there is no assembly. Without space for expression and assembly, there is no civil society.


Anonymous said...

What about Tor and Tails?

Lucy Bernholz said...

Well - Tor and Tails are close. But the use of them attracts interest of government monitors, which makes using them harder and harder - more and more effort to keep activity private. This means skills for using them are far beyond those of average person on internet, or average person looking for a park bench for a chat. More akin, perhaps, to a bench in a private(ish) park, where entry is limited to those with the key (no pun intended)