I think that political leaders, such as Angela Merkel, might do better to avoid the rants of Seltzer and his ilk and turn, instead, to the considered prose of Sue Halpern, whose essay "Are We Puppets in a Wired World?" is in the current issue of The New York Review. There is one particular paragraph that strikes me as getting to the core of why the Internet is what it is:
People choose to use a service like Facebook despite its invasive policies, or Google, knowing that Google’s e-mail service, Gmail, scans private communications for certain keywords that are then parlayed into ads. People choose to make themselves into “micro-celebrities” by broadcasting over Twitter. People choose to carry mobile phones, even though the phones’ geolocation feature makes them prime tracking devices. How prime was recently made clear when it was reported in Der Spiegel that “it is possible for the NSA to tap most sensitive data held on these smart phones, including contact lists, SMS traffic, notes and location information about where a user has been.” But forget about the NSA—the GAP knows we’re in the neighborhood and it’s offering 20 percent off on cashmere sweaters!The Internet may not have governance, but the fact is that just about every large enterprise in the business of selling stuff knows how to manage in the environment. The bottom line is that such institutions are both tough enough and smart enough to survive in anarchy. As to the rest of us, the corollary to that bottom line is the old adage from the age of the robber-barons: The public be damned. Merkel knows that the benefits she gets from her cell phone extend far beyond the nuts and bolts of running the country into the personal enjoyment she shares with the rest of us of being a consumer. By all rights that joy should not lead to damnation; but, in the minds of those who have mastered the craft of exploitation through the Internet, that is exactly where it does lead.