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Open Internet ethos: Ask for forgiveness not permission?

I consider one of the most troublesome aspects of the broader "open" movement for an Open Internet, net neutrality, free culture, and unauthorized tracking online, is the core Internet ethos that one should "ask for forgiveness, not permission." This ethos also goes by "innovation without permission."

This perverse Internet ethos can turn true Internet freedom on its head in that it self-servingly justifies one unilaterally usurping the freedom of others -- their freedom from harm, freedom of privacy, or freedom of safety.

  • In other words, it is an irresponsible ethos where one can do whatever one wants on the Internet, and if people object, just ask for forgiveness and stop doing it. 

The problem is that the proverbial bell can't be un-rung on the Internet because with caching and the viral nature of linking, once a harm or an invasion of privacy is done on the Internet -- it can't fully be undone. 

  • This ethos can be looked at as self-licensing to do whatever one wants, without regard to potential damage or harm.

One of the highest profile and recent manifestations of this "ask for forgiveness not permission" ethos is Google's Streetview effort. 

  • A new AFP story reports that in Japan a group of journalists, professors and lawyers have asked Google to take down StreetView in Japan. 
  • This builds on a similar Streetview-privacy story in the NYT in mid-November that reported both Switzerland and Germany consider Streetview to be an illegal invasion of privacy in their countries.   

Bottom line:

The Open Internet ethos of "ask for forgiveness, not permission" and 'innovation without permission" may sound great if one is on the side of exercising ones freedom at the expense of someone else's freedom.

  • However, it is an entirely different matter when one is on the receiving in of having their freedom of privacy or freedom of safety taken away -- and all they can do is complain and try and clean up the damage...
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