Since the outbreak of civil unrest in the Middle East, we have seen an increased focus on the role played by social networking and mobility. When these two technologies are combined, the ability of a ‘flash mob’ to rally behind a single idea, or to a single location, has greatly increased. From a single starting point, thousands of people can appear as if by magic carrying similar banners and demanding change. This has been seen as a good thing by the Western World where repression of this behaviour by sovereign nations, has been seen as anti democratic.
In the past weeks, we have seen a ‘same same, but different’ set of civil unrest in the United Kingdom. Whether this was driven by a desire for social change, or in response to police action, is very important, but not relevant to my point. In the UK we saw again, the twin super powers of social networking and mobility bringing the protesters / criminals (pick one that suits your view) together.
Last week I watched a video clip of UK Prime Minister David Cameron proposing to cut off telecommunication access during future protest events and civil unrest. This issue talks to the fine balance between personal privacy and in this case, physical security.
I’m sure we are not yet in agreement on where this balance should sit – and that is one of the dilemmas our society faces during a time of rapid technical change, and society’s very human inability to keep pace. Laws must always be created in arrears, so we should expect more real world events to shape future legislation.