On the 13th of October young people aged 12 to 28 met to discuss issues such as
privacy on social media, backdoors and cyberwar. Moderator Chris van ’t Hof opened
the debate by stressing the importance of the day. “With this debate, we are helping organise NL IGF prepare for the global Internet Governance Forum in Mexico”, Chris said. “It is important that the voices of ‘digital natives’ be heard.” Thijl Klerkx and Auke Pals act as representatives for Dutch youths and are participating in a European Erasmus+ project through NL IGF. They have both attended the global IGF and wanted to share their experiences. “The first time left quite an impression, with seeing so many new faces and attending a jam-packed programme. I had to let everything sink in first. This time I expect it will be easier to let my voice
be heard and I’m hoping to meet a lot of new people”, Thijl said. Based on his experiences at IGF 2015 in Brazil, Auke thinks that you should not be afraid to stand up and speak your mind. People will accept and respect that. “Your voice is there to help, to formulate arguments”, he added.
‘You wouldn’t give your money away’
This was the first thesis of the debate. Channels such as Facebook, Tinder and Google are not as free as they may appear, because the user ultimately pays by supplying data. The data collected is subsequently used for ‘profiling’ and other corporate activities. On the basis of your user activity, Facebook also decides what information to show you. Not only large corporations gather this so-called ‘big data’, many small businesses gather user info as well. Is data collection by all these companies justified? Is it okay that by doing so, they may influence our opinions? What exactly do they know about us users and what do they do with the information?
Collecting data earns Facebook approx. 200 euro per user. Should we be able to demand money from Facebook because they are making so much money off of us without having to work for it? Opinions on the subject varied. Most people did not agree we should be able to demand compensation from Facebook. “We can choose whether or not to use the ‘free’ services Facebook provides. I think it’s okay that Facebook uses my data as compensation”, a participant called Wilma explained. Another argument put forward is that Facebook needs to pay for storage etc. and that the benefits gained are proportional to the costs. Other participants, on the other hand, felt that Facebook should be more transparent about how they are handling our data and should show the algorithms they apply. To illustrate her argument, Sonia Herring, representative of Turkish youths, said that Facebook has performed experiments with Facebook users in America without informing them or asking for their permission. In the end, most participants more or less agreed that we need more transparency on how our data is handled and what it is used for. We should also have some degree of control over it, but it is not feasible to make all algorithms public. This would disrupt the business model.
‘Privacy is out-dated’
“Privacy doesn’t exist in today’s world. We should let go of the concept because we can’t stop companies from gathering our data”. This thesis suggested by moderator Chris van ’t Hof kicked off the second debate. What would a world without privacy look like? Part of the group think privacy is crucial. They feel they should be able to manage their own online identity. “Even if you try to avoid being online, someone else would do it for you”, others say. You might question if the things we want are workable. The conclusion of the debate: “Privacy isn’t out-dated, but it needs a little update so that we can make our own choices.”
‘Why won’t tech companies create backdoors for devices and software if it will help catch the bad guys?’
The third debate dealt with so-called ‘backdoors’, deliberately installed functions in programming that allow the government to circumvent corporate security mechanisms. Normally companies handle their own security and hold the ‘keys’ themselves. Implementing backdoors allows the government to bypass these keys and gain entry to the corporate network. Wouldn’t it be convenient if government agencies could use these backdoors to track down criminals? But where should their powers end? Opinions within the group differed wildly. “It would be like hiding a house key underneath your doormat”, one participant argued. Others had no objections to backdoors and said that “companies that do nothing wrong have nothing to hide, so there shouldn’t be a problem.” In the end, most participants turned out to be in favour of backdoors and seemed to gain a sense of security from them.
‘Cyberwar, do we want to create backdoors in other countries too?’
The debate concluded with a discussion on cyberwar. Should the Netherland get involved in a cyberwar and create backdoors in other countries? The Netherlands has one of the largest Internet hubs, which puts us in a strong position and may enable us to win. The participants quickly came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to keep control over such attacks. Everyone was keenly aware that real people would be affected. “As an analogy, you could compare an attack to the use of a chemical weapon in the real world”, participant Chris argued. The youth group came to the conclusion that in an all-out cyberwar, in which everyone is attacking everyone, it would be difficult for the Netherlands to stand on the sidelines. We would be forced to participate.
The Dutch original can be found here: https://www.nligf.nl/you-wouldnt-give-your-money-away/