The internet has a long memory so be careful what you look at and what you post.
In its bid for global domination of the online advertising market, Google doesn’t forget anything. Every site your IP address accesses is logged. Ostensibly for marketing purposes, but not everyone has that in mind.
Take the case of the country that makes almost everything we consume (unless you follow in the footsteps of the brave folks who brought you A Year Without “Made in China”). Yes, China has forced those fun-loving billionaire geeks at Google to stooge up certain searches for its citizens, 1984 style, to (for example) make the Tiananmen Square massacre vanish into thin air.
Yahoo! is culpable in Chinese “dissident” Shi Tao‘s 10 year prison term by providing technical information to the government about Shi Tao’s email account and computer.
All this in order to crack the Chinese market and the billions in potential profits.
The most chilling case is that of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh of Afghanistan who was sentenced to death (a sentence confirmed by the Afghan Senate!) for downloading a document from an Iranian (!) website about Islam and women’s rights. Hopefully high level international condemnation will overturn this incomprehensible decision, however it must be pointed out that it is this government Australians are propping up with the lives of our soldiers and billions in taxpayer dollars.
On the home front, police are swooping on anyone who has downloaded so-called child pornography. It is difficult to know what they are talking about after the absurd events surrounding the seizure and subsequent release of Bill Henson’s photographs. According to an ABC article, the recent crackdown “started when a hacker infiltrated a respectable European website and placed 99 explicit images of young girls” on it for all to see. Does explicit simply mean naked, as in Henson’s case, or is there more going on? These days it doesn’t pay to be too curious, otherwise they could be carting you away.
So, when an adult acting like a distraught mother comes into your library requesting photos of naked pubescent girls because she believes her daughter may be abnormal, do you jump out of your skin in fear, knowing that every internet search you make is being logged, or do you direct her to one of the many gynaecological (medical) sites which graphically illustrate human development? What if the person asking is an unkempt male with dubious stains around his crotch?
In the words of the evil Nazi-loving Donovan in Indiana Jones and the last crusade: “It’s time to ask yourself what you believe.”
In the case of the Afghan courts the answer is simple: Blasphemy means death. In the Western world with its Victorian era style fetishization of the innocence of childhood vs. the preteen erotica pumped out by the fashion industry and advertizers, half the population can’t even walk past a school without suspicious neighborhood watch enthusiasts comparing notes.
Back in the online world it is obvious that Google may be a too indiscriminate tool to use when searching for sensitive topics. In an unfiltered environment who knows what you might stumble across. And it all goes on your record. If you attempt to fool the system by logging on in a public place using a pseudonym, CCT footage will catch you every time.
In the early to mid nineties almost all US universities had a detailed bomb making manual available for download from their Gopher sites. It was cool then. Now, in this world still in the grips of terrorism hysteria, if “they” find out you’ve looked at a bomb making site you could be rounded up and interrogated, at their leisure – and forget about habeas corpus. On the same note, last week the UK shadow home secretary resigned saying: “I never thought I would be in the House of Commons on the day Magna Carta was repealed.”
In my next post, if I’m permitted, I will include my “visiting hours.”