#77: “The Past and Present of the Internet – Part 2”
Published in 2017/02/09 issue
Basically, the internet is scarier than you think it is. It may be ridiculously convenient (and getting more useful with each passing day), but the dangers are rising at the same time.
Since it’s so useful, we have no choice but to use it. I expect that companies will consider proficient internet usage as part of a prospective employee’s skillset. You can’t choose to not use the internet because of the dangers it poses, so the best we can do is consider how to avoid those dangers.
The first thing you need to watch out for is that everything you send is logged. Not just text, but also pictures, voice, and videos. Even if you set a password and only talk to people who you’ve exchanged passwords with, that data is still being logged. Besides, since you have a contract with an internet service provider (ISP), it’s only natural that your data will be uploaded to another hard drive when you use that ISP’s web servers.
Of course, that data and information are backed by the agreements and ethics laid out in the contract. There’s no end to the possible doubts regarding this, but at any rate, whoever is managing your data has the ability to see it—albeit not at a moment’s notice because of the several layers of security checks in place. On the flip side, this also means that there are countermeasures in place for when those ethics are lost. As we’ve come to understand through the numerous data breaches in the news recently, it’s not that we shouldn’t trust these companies; it’s that we should be able to defend ourselves when those things happen.
Also, what’s scary is that the text, pictures, and videos you upload to the internet are being stored at random by third parties. In the past, online data was volatile because of limited storage space. If you deleted a webpage you’d created from the web server, then that page would truly be deleted. However, now that storage costs have drastically decreased, all of that data can now be stored for cheap.
For example, let’s say I make a contract with an ISP and create a webpage. After managing it for 3 years, it gets annoying to maintain and I decide to delete the entire thing from the web server. Though the data is gone from the ISP’s server, anyone could’ve accessed the webpage during those 3 years and saved the text or source code. And there are actually people who do that—companies and even certain national governments. That’s because—as I said last time—this information is valuable. It may not be worth anything at the time it’s posted, but if that person becomes valuable in the future, then their associated information will become valuable as well.
The data from the website I ran 15 years ago can’t be restored anymore, but the site from 10 years ago can easily be reconstructed. I don’t know who did it, but someone archived it.
Now, that makes it sound like there’s no way to defend against it, which is actually true. You do have the option of only using the internet to search for information without sending any of your own. However, the internet is a place where many creative works are shared, so it would be a shame to shut that down. That means that what’s important is what kind of information you’re sharing.
At the very least, refrain from sharing things that can be linked to your identity. Of course, that’s impossible for people who conduct business over the internet, but I think you need to be cautious when posting things on sites like Twitter. Things that only relate to you yourself are fine, but candidly revealing things like your family structure or information that can be used to identify your workplace is the same as sharing information about those around you. Sharing cute photos of your children is also dangerous, so please think over it carefully before posting them. Image recognition technology is making rapid advances thanks to facial recognition and growth forecasting, so it’s quite possible that your child’s personal information will be exposed.
As I’ve mentioned before, I think that internet background checks for employment will become commonplace within 10 years. Employers want to see what your ideologies are, what kind of information you’ve been sending, whether or not you lied during the interview, etc. Even now, those things can easily be investigated with a bit of manual effort. It’s a lot of work for a business to do if there are a lot of candidates, so we’ll probably see more businesses dedicated to doing that work for them. Then, those private investigation companies will cooperate with each other, making it easy to single out a particular person.
This isn’t a threat—it’s something that’s already become the norm. Even if we try to resist, it’s too late. Presently, Japan is still using the internet with a strong sense of anonymity, and since the legislation hasn’t made any progress, it feels like you can get away with “anything.” Morals are dropping at a remarkable rate.
There is no world where you can get away with anything, so always be careful with what you say. We’ve already entered an era where it can come back to bite you later. It would be safer to be aware of that. Since my job requires using the internet, writing this column is also a warning to myself.