With the recent release of a series of stolen e-mails apparently from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit seems to have been timed in a way that they would make it to the news just in time for the Copenhagen climate conference. Yet while in themselves, didn’t impact the conference itself as the perpetrators of the deed had hoped. They did on the other hand spawn many inquiries, “all of which cleared the researchers” of any technical faux-pas leaving them with only the appearance of an arrogant attitude when it came to the UK’s Freedom of Information Act. Yet whomever the parties were who spirited these mails from their owners is also planning the release of yet another batch ahead of the upcoming Durban climate meeting.
However the point to note here isn’t about the validity or politics of climate change itself, instead its about e-mails. That wonders invention which ARPNET brought us in the ability to push written messages around to many people at once. As it’s an amazing thing to think that one e-mail can go to millions of people with a push of a single button. While I’m might be pushing the spam envelope here, the reality isn’t too far off as the venerable e-mail has created a new form of communication medium if you will which is connected, persistent and highly replicated.
So it is with breaches such as this and other like Wiki-Leaks which show two things with being anything typed in an e-mail is in the public domain like it or not as its replicated over and over by the technology which transports it, so there is no privacy there. Second is it is persistent as it never goes away, as much like stomping out a colony of ants, you will never get them all. The same holds true for e-mails [as with ants] as the copies will do nothing but replicate, so once created they will persist for eternity.
The other thing about e-mails is they are “connected” as unlike a piece of paper one can’t say (claim) its anonymous, as e-mails have a connection to their sender. As they not only have the message, they also carry the path taken to and from their connected source.
Finally it hit me about this story as who cares, yes who cares that these are stolen mails and that someone done some one wrong? It seems our norms have shifted to accept the loss of privacy in our [perceived private] communications being made public. As instead of promoting this as a violation, the concept has been one of rote information sharing and assessment. Just remember the next time you type a mail, information want to be free and there are many people who will help it along the way.