Web services are becoming so profoundly woven into the fabric of our lives that we are starting to have a relationship with them much like our relationships with nation states.
It is well known that the government is far behind the times when it comes to addressing issues such as privacy laws and other internet related issues. There are new systems of government springing up around us, and they are privately owned.
Before the internet, the level of scalability we are now seeing was unheard of. There was no need for legislation for a system of relationships where millions of people could enter into a contract at a moments notice.
Preempted by the EULAs from early software, and cellphone service agreements, the internet has established a legal model where people can enter into binding contracts just by using an online service. We have become a world of people who are subjected to an entirely new regime of relationships.
If you do anything on the internet right now such as online banking, Twitter, Facebook, using public wifi, downloading Apple apps etc… you have an inability to have a say in your relationships with the provider. These large companies have the ultimate say and can change their terms on a whim. Many people will argue that if you don’t want to give up your rights, then don’t sign the Terms of Service. The problem is that these companies are so large they have a monopoly on the service they provide, so we don’t have any other options. What I’m going to do? Stop using the internet?
Copyright laws have been entrenched into the terms of everything on the internet, and if you violate these you have broken the law and can be persecuted to it’s full extent.
These companies are basically writing their own laws that are backed by governments and have ultimate control over our rights. Not only that, they also control our limitations by the actions they let us perform defined implicitly in the design of the service. They control how we express ourselves, interact with one another, and many other aspects of our daily lives. These privately owned companies can control us, but more importantly governments can bend them to their will.
For more on this subject check out this TED Talk by Rebecca MacKinnon.