Is privacy a myth


Vinton G. Cerf
Vinton G. Cerf, commonly known as one of the "Fathers of the Internet," is Google's VP and Chief Internet Evangelist. He is a co-founder of ICANN and was Chairman of the Board from 2000 to 2007. He has received numerous honorary doctorates and has received the National Medal of Technology, the Turing Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among others.

This is a wide range of opinions about the Internet and various truths and myths about its operation, uses, and effects. While I do not agree with all of the descriptions in this collection, I believe it is important to study allegations about the Internet and its applications, both to clear up any misunderstandings and to understand how some of these misrepresentations came about. Some are based on some kind of enthusiastic hubris about the independence of virtual space, which, on closer inspection, turns out to be more closely related to the physical and political world than one would think. Others seem like pretexts for taking positions that harm the useful applications of the Internet today. Readers should approach these analyzes with the motivation to discover useful truths about the complex structure that the Internet is now. The implementation and use of the Internet depends to a large extent on the respective legislation as well as on the physical infrastructure, culture, social norms and the technology available. The “myths” have to be checked and evaluated in context in order to be able to understand and judge them correctly.

I am clearly biased with my longstanding involvement in many aspects of the birth and evolution of the Internet, but I continue to believe that the Internet as a platform is and will remain an exceptional source of information, innovation, and collaboration. The World Wide Web, which lies above the Internet infrastructure, has produced a cornucopia of applications and a flow of information comparable to the invention of the printing press. The unique flexibility of the underlying computing infrastructure, however, offers a universe of functionalities that cannot be achieved in the static form of pressure. Content can be searched, translated, structured, repurposed and adapted in a way that only reaches its limits where we are not able to think up and write software to implement new skills.

The abundance of information that can be found on the Internet is a burden for users: They have to take a critical look at the quality, accuracy and truthfulness of the information. That is complex and, in a certain way, the price that we have to pay for the freedom of information in the online world. However, these freedoms are at risk precisely because the borderless Internet is more embedded in the political landscape than its enthusiastic supporters would like. The benefit of disenchanting myths is to view this remarkable environment through a realistic lens, and the resulting sharpness can help us move towards an Internet whose advantages can consistently make up for its shortcomings.