Wikipedia’s Wales takes stand on privacy and web freedom

Chris Davies - Apr 16, 2012, 5:14am CDT
Wikipedia’s Wales takes stand on privacy and web freedom

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has spoken out on privacy, online lobbying and social media, taking hypocritical employers to task and predicting that internet pay-walls will actually improve journalism today. Speaking as part of the New Thinkers Index – a Microsoft Advertising-led project – Wales laid out his top five predictions for the future of social media, arguing that online lobbying such as seen over SOPA will increasingly force politicians and lawmakers to be accountable.

Wales also touched on the furore of global privacy regulations in recent months, including the talk of employers demanding Facebook account access so as to perform background checks into employees and applicants. While many have called for new laws to protect privacy, Wales isn’t so sure that’s the best reaction, instead suggesting that we will “rethink” the “perception of its danger.” “Maybe we shouldn’t consider it a threat to privacy, but a change to privacy” he suggests “One of the classic things people have say to college students about Facebook is “be careful, don’t put any pictures of yourself up drunk at a party because your employer might see them.”

“Actually, what I think is more likely to happen is that sort of hypocrisy, where an employer is going to go “oh, you drink in college, how can I possible hire someone…” which is ridiculous” Wales scoffs. “Of course, everybody got drunk in college – well, not everybody, but most people – why is that so scandalous?”

As for online journalism, Wales predicts efficient micro-payment systems will make a huge difference to paywalls, with readers able to reward those journalists they particularly appreciate by paying for individual articles and content. The Wikipedia founder doesn’t expect all sites to become paid, but expects to to increasingly feature online.

Wales is known for not being shy about making contentious statements about the internet and what dangers face it; he memorably described app stores as presenting a “chokepoint” to the web and being “a threat to a diverse and open ecosystem.” Whether his optimistic view on evolving opinions toward privacy and accountability pan out remain to be seen.

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