Knowing what not to know: sharing and hiding information in digital societies 

Our societies are increasingly dependent on, and shaped by, our information technologies. We read, watch, communicate, interact, and monitor digitally, both as individuals and in our institutions.

As we document and store every conceivable facet of our lives we expose tensions between the availability of information and the freedoms that we enjoy. We rightly expect a level of personal privacy and freedom of expression while, equally justifiably, expecting transparency from our governments and businesses. In practice, we all too often see the reverse.

In this talk, Dr Joss Wright, Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, examined technologies that seek to assert, resist, or subvert control over information, and assessed the balance of the information we share as individuals and as a society. The talk explored technologies such as the ‘dark web’ and Bitcoin, that seek to resist traditional observation and control, and the new forms of control introduced by broad-scale gathering of personal data and the algorithms used to act on it.

By understanding the consequences of hiding and sharing information, and the technologies and policies that we use to do so, we take a necessary step towards consciously guiding the shape of the future societies that we wish to see.

You can watch a video recording of the event here.