Panel Discussion

The Trouble Ahead

The Struggle for Secrecy and Transparency

Information technology has widely been celebrated as enabling technology and providing unlimited access to information and unhindered social interaction. But political decision makers are increasingly controlling and regulating Internet access and its policies. Behind the glossy interfaces of so-called social media platforms, user communication and social statistics are monetized through targeted advertising and market research.

Wikileaks discloses compromising information for fostering democracy, but Facebook exploits private information for advertising. While social media are celebrated for jumpstarting revolutions, their back-end allows detailed monitoring, in Western societies for advertising, in repressive regimes for interception, identification and eventually intimidation. Western companies engage in the profitable business of providing repressive regimes with surveillance technology.

The role of technology as either emancipating or repressing citizens is heavily contested in the socio-political debates. Its ambivalent quality raises issues about the role of society in designing and using it. It challenges the promise for unhindered access to information and addresses the reality of surveillance, monitoring and intercepting information and online activities.

Curated by Ann-Sophie Lehmann, Mirko Tobias Schaefer and Imar de Vries (MA New Media & Digital Culture, University of Utrecht)


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