Sphre AIR
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XID · 186w

How Sphre Air will help democratize the Internet

AIR | Enabling the Democratization of the Internet.

Fiona Seymour for Sphre.

The internet is free but only up to a point. In the 27 years that have elapsed since its inception, the original vision of Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web has been subverted by business which provides ‘free’ services, but only in exchange for personal data. Surely that is a contradiction in terms? The distinction between the absence of any exchange of money and ‘free’ is highly important in this context considering how our personal data is being used; not to mention the huge profit that is derived from it while none is shared with the source. Berners-Lee commented recently that, ‘As our data is … held in proprietary silos, out of sight to us, we lose out on the benefits we could realise if we had direct control over this data and chose when and with whom to share it. What’s more, we often do not have any way of feeding back to companies what data we’d rather not share — especially with third parties — the T&Cs are all or nothing. (1) And so what do we get in return, aside from the free use of services such as Google and Facebook? Well often it’s the unwanted targeting by ad companies of content that is supposedly geared to our personal preferences which are derived from tracking our internet usage. More worryingly, Berners-Lee points out, ‘Through collaboration with — or coercion of — companies, governments are also increasingly watching our every move online and passing extreme laws that trample on our rights to privacy.’ (1)

And whilst we are discussing the semantics of the word ‘free’, what do you consider your personal data derived from your identity to be worth? It may seem rather too abstract a construct to warrant a monetary value, yet a great deal of money is being garnered from it — not that you’d notice since you aren’t being remunerated for its use. But what to do? We still want to use these free services and while we are at present powerless to...

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