Parker’s history as a Silicon Valley pioneer makes his perspective on Internet privacy particularly notable. The Internet and social media have “helped foment revolutions, overturn governments, and give otherwise invisible people a voice,” he says, but they have also been “used to extend the impact of real-world bullying” and “form massive digital lynch mobs.” In such a climate, Parker asserts, “we are all at risk of becoming ‘public figures’ in a world where the media has expanded to include nearly everyone.”
New problems, new solutions
It’s clear that a truly sufficient solution will require our lawmakers to step up and take action. And Parker has some suggestions:
“In particular, we need to consider stronger privacy laws here in the U.S., a basic right to privacy along the lines of the laws enjoyed by the citizens of most Western European nations … In such a world, our defamation laws need to be updated to provide individuals with the protection from public persecution that they deserve. We also need to reinforce our personal privacy by beefing up the intellectual property laws that govern the personal content that we generate and share via services like Facebook.”
Legal frameworks for dealing with digital media are outdated
“It’s increasingly clear that our legal frameworks for dealing with these new mediums are outmoded at best,” Parker says. Recent revelations about the NSA’s surveillance and data collection programs have underscored the inadequacy of current laws. The gap continues to grow. “Every looming technological breakthrough, from Google Glass to driverless cars promises to make our every move and download a little easier to track,” New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote last month. This trend applies not only to government surveillance, but also the kind of every-citizen and “blogging for dollars” journalism that Parker is troubled by.
Significant legislative changes needed
While it may seem futile to try to keep our privacy from being swept away by such powerful currents, The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf argues that there is hope. “Americans facing even longer odds have succeeded before in bringing about social or legal change, and even in amending our founding document,” he writes. “At some point in time everyone, whether they engage actively with these new mediums or not, will experience a violation of their privacy, will find their reputation besmirched publicly, and may even find their sanity challenged,” Parker predicts in his TechCrunch post. He will likely be right—unless we find the will to enact significant legislative changes.