Twenty-five years ago, scientists at CERN created the World Wide Web. Since then, the Internet has transformed the way we communicate, the way we do business, and even the way we live. In many ways, the ideas that gave birth to Google, Facebook, Twitter, and so many others, have now really transformed our lives, and this has brought us many real benefits such as a more connected society. However, there are also some downsides to this. Today, the average person has an astounding amount of personal information online, and we add to this online information every single time we post on Facebook, each time we search on Google, and each time we send an email.
Now, many of us probably think, well, one email, there's nothing in there, right? But if you consider a year's worth of emails, or maybe even a lifetime of email, collectively, this tells a lot. It tells where we have been, who we have met, and in many ways, even what we're thinking about. And the more scary part about this is our data now lasts forever, so your data can and will outlive you. What has happened is that we've largely lost control over our data and also our privacy.
So this year, as the web turns 25, it's very important for us to take a moment and think about the implications of this. We have to really think. We've lost privacy, yes, but actually what we've also lost is the idea of privacy itself. If you think about it, most of us here today probably remember what life was like before the Internet, but today, there's a new generation that is being taught from a very young age to share everything online, and this is a generation that is not going to remember when data was private. So we keep going down this road, 20 years from now, the word 'privacy' is going to have a completely different meaning from what it means to you and I.
So, it's time for us to take a moment and think, is there anything we can do about this? And I believe there is. Let's take a look at one of the most widely used forms of communication in the world today: email. Before the invention of email, we largely communicated using letters, and the process was quite simple. You would first start by writing your message on a piece of paper, then you would place it into a sealed envelope, and from there, you would go ahead and send it after you put a stamp and address on it. Unfortunately, today, when we actually send an email, we're not sending a letter. What you are sending, in many ways, is actually a postcard, and it's a postcard in the sense that everybody that sees it from the time it leaves your computer to when it gets to the recipient can actually read the entire contents.
So, the solution to this has been known for some time, and there's many attempts to do it. The most basic solution is to use encryption, and the idea is quite simple. First, you encrypt the connection between your computer and the email server. Then, you also encrypt the data as it sits on the server itself. But there's a problem with this, and that is, the email servers also hold the encryption keys, so now you have a really big lock with a key placed right next to it. But not only that, any government could lawfully ask for and get the key to your data, and this is all without you being aware of it.
So the way we fix this problem is actually relatively easy, in principle: You give everybody their own keys, and then you make sure the server doesn't actually have the keys. This seems like common sense, right? So the question that comes up is, why hasn't this been done yet?
Well, if we really think about it, we see that the business model of the Internet today really isn't compatible with privacy. Just take a look at some of the biggest names on the web, and you see that advertising plays a huge role. In fact, this year alone, advertising is 137 billion dollars, and to optimize the ads that are shown to us, companies have to know everything about us. They need to know where we live, how old we are, what we like, what we don't like, and anything else they can get their hands on. And if you think about it, the best way to get this information is really just to invade our privacy. So these companies aren't going to give us our privacy. If we want to have privacy online, what we have to do is we've got to go out and get it ourselves.
For many years, when it came to email, the only solution was something known as PGP, which was quite complicated and only accessible to the tech-savvy. Here's a diagram that basically shows the process for encrypting and decrypting messages. So needless to say, this is not a solution for everybody, and this actually is part of the problem, because if you think about communication, by definition, it involves having someone to communicate with. So while PGP does a great job of what it's designed to do, for the people out there who can't understand how to use it, the option to communicate privately simply does not exist. And this is a problem that we need to solve. So if we want to have privacy online, the only way we can succeed is if we get the whole world on board, and this is only possible if we bring down the barrier to entry. I think this is actually the key challenge that lies in the tech community. What we really have to do is work and make privacy more accessible.
Part 1: Fill in the chart with:
Part of Speech
Noun, Verb, Article
What do I ‘think’ this word means?
Part 2: Stretch Question-Celebrate Writing
- According to paragraph 1, what do we add to every time we post on Facebook?
- According to paragraph 2, what lasts forever?
- According to paragraph 3, what is the new generation being taught?
- According to paragraph 4, why is your email more like a postcard than a letter?
- According to paragraph 7 & 8, why do you think today’s Internet is not compatible with privacy?
- The transferable vocabulary word is invention. What does this word mean? Explain how the transferable vocabulary can be used in another subject? Use a SEMANTIC WORD MAP for this word.
Part 3: Work With a Partner
- Ask your partner if they have ever sent an email that they wanted to be absolutely private. Did they think no one else could read it after they sent it? Why?
- Do you agree with what your partner said in question 7? Use the outline on the board for this question and answer. This question is worth more than all the others. Take your time writing your answer.
- Working with your partner, what do you think is the main idea of this article? Cite a line from the text to support why you think this is the main idea.
EPAS Skill for next exam: Using an apostrophe. Write the sentence. Add an apostrophe to correct the underlined word.
1. Your emails information is not private.
2. Theres a problem with trying to encrypt and decrypt your emails information.
3. Your email – its more like a postcard than a letter.
4. Your computers screen is pretty dirty.
5. Marks computer is cleaner than yours.