Abstract - The Information Society 13(2)

Age of uncontrolled information flow

Henry Spencer

We are heading into an era of uncontrolled and uncontrollable information flow. In the past, the tools of information flow required large investments, and the persons controlling them were easily identifiable. Now, effective long-range communication with large numbers of people can be done using tools that are easily affordable to the average citizen. Moreover, it can be done in ways that make monitoring and control virtually impossible. This is not a worrisome future change that can be averted by prompt action; it is a fait accompli and there is no reversing it. However, this is not necessarily clear to those interested in monitoring and control. Unfortunately, the bulk of electronic communication is still relatively exposed to monitoring and control, and is likely to remain so for a while. The danger is that the authorities, trying to retain a grip on a situation that is irretrievably slipping away, will react to the extremes of the problem in ways that leave ordinary users¦ privacy unprotected. The best approach is to adapt traditional solutions rather than inventing new ones. The safeguards built into the traditional solutions may not be precisely appropriate, but they are far better than nothing.

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