The Internet should not be restricted to uses which yield a
profit. Security choices should be left to the user, rather
than enforced by manufacturers or governments in order to
maximize the profit-making potential of the Internet.
For example, the endeavor to make browsers "secure" is an
error of great import: we are now preventing the user from
having the power to CHOOSE their security. Manufacturers
have assumed that users are stupid and will choose to
violate their own security if they are given the option
to do so. So the browser manufacturers have restricted
your ability to control the level of security you enjoy.
Let's look at a specific example. When you are using
Netscape or Internet Explorer you may have a number of
different windows open to different sites on the Internet at
the same time.
For security reasons, none of these windows is allowed to
know the URL (address) of any of the others, unless that
address is one which comes from the same domain. It would
be very useful to know this information, since you could use
it to make recommendations in one window for the page held in
another window. You might also want to extract all the links from
one window and use them in another. Many capabilities are
disabled because you are prevented from knowing the contents of
Now suppose there was a switch in Netscape or Internet
explorer which gave you the capability to "reach out" to
other windows and extract information from them. You could
set the switch at the user level, thereby negating any
security which existed to prevent you from doing so. What's
wrong with that?
The argument goes like this: people would be deceived into
throwing the "switch" and opening the security door without
full understanding of what they were doing. Therefore, we
cannot allow ANYONE to do so.
The underlying philosophical idea is thus: "Since some
people will act in ignorance, ALL people must be treated as
ignorant." It's "lowest common denominator" thinking at its
I have had a discussion with a man who is working to build a
"secure" online voting system for the government. Let's
suppose for a minute that he succeeds in this endeavor. What
is to prevent people from giving or selling their passwords
to others? Nothing. How could you possibly know if someone
is who they say they are? Most Internet Providers
dynamically assign an IP address when you log on. Voting
could not be restricted to users based on IP address without
a massive infrastructure to coordinate dynamically allocated
IP addresses with the "centralized" computer which allowed
you to vote.
The result would be more laws and more criminalization for
the people who sold or gave their voting passwords to
others. Now we would have the "internet police" monitoring
all kinds of activity in the name of "secure internet
Netscape and Internet Explorer have recently discovered a
security flaw in the design of the http protocol itself.
The results of a form submission can be re-directed to a
foreign window or frame. So they have decided to restrict
users from this capability in the latest releases of their
software. Pages which used to work will no longer work.
We have been "disabled" for purposes of enhanced security.
To see how this affects you, go to:
and select the "Separate window" radio button.
Then design a frameset and press the "Frame Me" button.
If you are using Netscape version 4 you will receive the
frameset in a separate window. If you are using the latest
versions of either Netscape or IE, the results will be in
the SAME window. It is considered a "security violation" to
return the contents of a form into another window.
The result is a handicap to the user, because you must now
press the "Back" button to return to the original page.
This may seem like a small price to pay in order to gain
added security, but if you look at my program, the
Desktop, you will find it does
not even work in the latest versions of Internet Explorer
and Netscape because of this security restriction. How many
other sites are now unusable to users because their new
browsers are restricted to enhance security?
We are losing power in the name of security and the user is
not even given a choice in the matter. Users are assumed to
be too ignorant of the consequences to be left the power of
choosing how their browsers will operate. So the manufacturers
are taking away our power in the name of security. They ASSUME
we want the security rather than the power to choose for
ourselves. This is wrong-headed and dangerous.
We should consider the call for more privacy as a direct
attack on our liberty. The Internet should be an open
place. We should learn how to trust each other and how to
live in the open. Criminal activity can still be treated
in the same manner, but we should not make new laws to
protect our privacy. It's dangerous and foolish. It
destroys liberty, choice, power, and ultimately
leads to a "dumbed down" Internet.
What should we do instead? We should educate people at
every opportunity about the dangers of using the internet.
We should give them options for security and tell them what
these options mean. We should enable each individual to make
their own decisions about their own levels of power and
Responsibility and power go together. If you want power,
take responsibility. If you have power, you are
responsible. The browser manufacturers and those calling
for more "privacy and security" are telling you that you
cannot be trusted to use power responsibly and must
therefore be "protected from yourself."
Education is always the answer. People need to be educated
about how insecure the Internet really is and how privacy is
Suppose that you are having a chat with someone who is at
work for a corporation. You might want to believe that the
contents of your chat are private. You might even have
selected "Private chat" when you initiated the chat. But
that user is operating within the confines of a corporate
environment and their superiors have a legal right to
monitor ALL communications in and out of that environment.
That means that someone else may be
monitoring or recording the contents of your chat without
your knowledge or permission.
So what is privacy? Private from whom? Are you even aware
that the person you are chatting with is operating from a
corporate computer? Are they aware that their communication
is being recorded or watched by their boss? Suppose they are
operating from their home computer, but send a transcript of
the chat to themselves via email and
retrieve it the next day while they are at work. Your
"privacy" was nothing more than a fanciful myth.
If the FBI serves Yahoo with a subpoena for your email
files, Yahoo will comply and turn them over to the FBI and
never tell you anything. What kind of privacy is that? If
you send an email to someone who retrieves it from their
workplace, their employer may well know about it. What kind
of privacy is that? And there are many other ways that
Internet communications can be intercepted at various
levels, including the router level.
What's the solution? Learn to live in the open. Privacy
has always been a myth. I remember when I was living in New
Zealand and the woman who I loved went to a psychic to find
out what kind of a father I would be if we had a child. When
she told me the information the psychic gave her and I was
astounded at the resonance it held. I felt my "privacy" had
been invaded. In retrospect, I can see how this was the
beginning of the end of that relationship.
Privacy is a matter of respect. It should not be assumed or
guaranteed by law. If someone uses information they obtain
about your "private" life in a criminal manner, they can
already be prosecuted under existing laws. We don't need
new laws. We must instead learn to live in the open and
respect each other so that we can all enjoy the "illusion"
of privacy. Information is available, whether through the
Internet or other means. We must learn to respect each other
enough to GRACE each other with privacy. It is not now and
has never been a proper matter for government to attempt to
control or regulate. There is no provision in the
Constitution to protect your "privacy."
The more we attempt to curtail the invasion of privacy, the
more we leave government as the only entity which can invade
our privacy. It is the essence of concentrating power and
authority in the "hands of the few." It is "Big Brother."
Privacy is a spiritual matter. Law is a matter of
government, of controlling peoples' behavior for the good of
all. Privacy and law should not be coupled because it leads
to a reduction in the liberty of the people. It also leads
the people to live in fear of each other and use the law
as a weapon against each other. It leads to the
dissolution of the very fabric of society, a
fabric built out of mutual trust.
Security, on the other hand, is always to be viewed as a
matter of degree. The National Security Agency talks about
security in terms of "degree of security" or "level of
security." They do not pretend that anything is
"absolutely secure." They know better. It is their job
to break security, including all encryption methods.
Of course, we can get better and better at doing things to
secure information, such as passwords. POP email is more
secure than web email. Encrypted messages are more secure
than unencrypted messages. But ultimately the message
exists in an insecure form at some point. There are even
devices which can view the contents of your computer monitor
from hundreds of feet away, without any cable or a visual
"line of sight." The radiation emanating from your
computer can be interpreted and the contents of what is on
your screen can be "read" by someone in a van outside
Privacy? What's that? An illusion. Security? What's that?
If you lock the doors of your car it makes it secure, right?
Wrong. It's only a sign to a would-be intruder that you want
him to respect your privacy. The AAA can get into virtually
any car in a matter of seconds. So can someone with a
Privacy, security and safety are spiritual matters. The
more we attempt to "control" them the more we become slaves
to our own fears. The solution is education. We should
always leave individuals make their own decisions and
accept the responsibility for them. The problem has been
that some people want a guarantee of security
and there is none to be offered ... only the illusion of the
same and laws which threaten to make more people into
There are two faces to "Big Brother" on the Internet. One
is clearly visible in organizations like doubleclick.com
which track us as we wander around the web through their
omnipresent ads. The other face is harder to see but even
more sinister; it is the face of people who are making
decisions "for your benefit" which will take power away from
Be wary of Big Brother in all its manifestations. Rather
than live in fear of others, learn to trust them. Rather
than trying to restrict others from knowing what you are
doing; tell them! Good moves faster than evil. If you are
trying to conceal your activities on the web, you may well
be doing evil. You should stop doing evil and start doing
good! You should share everything you do with others. You
should realize that privacy and security are illusions we
cling to out of fear. The less fear we have the more love
we have. The less expectation we embrace, the more trust we
We have been trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
The Internet is not meant to be "secure, private, and
safe." It is meant to be a training ground for the next
step in human evolution, where we will live in the open and
have a government we trust. That's what we should be working
for now, rather than pursuing illusions of security, privacy
If you aren't releasing secure information,
such as your credit card number, why should you be
handicapped by high security restrictions?
If you don't care if people track your movements
on the web, why should you be restricted from
allowing it? Tracking can help us find each other.
Remember what the insurance salesman does? He tries to get
you to feel "insecure and unsafe" so he can sell you a
policy. But does that feeling go away after you buy the
policy? No, of course not, because if it did you would
cancel your policy!
Instead, you are perpetually enslaved to your fears.
Don't buy into the fear. Ask yourself "What do I
have to fear?" If you have anything to fear, you
may want to address the cause itself, rather than
trying to change the world to conform to your fears.
That only serves to create more fear.
Trust is better than expectation.
I release all fear.
I am responsible.
Author, Synergy Desktop