Cellular Convergence: Threat to Privacy and Speech
The press has recently highlighted a few incidents wherein mobile phones were used to relay information regarding riots or protests. One of them happened in our own city of London and elsewhere and the other was related to actions by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the US transit system.
In the incident related to BART, the transit company was forced to disrupt the mobile phone services in order to hamper the communication amongst potential protestors. They claim that potential danger was evident and this step was taken to avoid any mishap and protect the passengers. While many have approved of this action, others have not. The opinions were similar when British agencies and authorities tried to disrupt mobile phone services and social media during the unrest and the recent riots.
Talking of mobile phone services being disrupted, the question that pops up in our mind is – should mobile communication be considered as a privilege or a right? Cornell University’s professor Steve Wicker stated that it is a right as mobile phones are increasingly substituting print as well as fax in this “revolutionary toolkit”. Hence, pulling the plug on cell phone services for hampering communication is definitely wrong.
Mr. Wicker has aptly discussed this topic in his new book “Cellular Convergence and the Threat to Speech and Privacy”, being published by the Oxford University Press.
He further adds that mobile phones are becoming more prominent platforms for speech in various contexts and forms. Since this speech platform depends much on networking infrastructure, being controlled by a number of service providers, it results in issues on freedom of speech.