As Swartz fought for, what we ideally need is government information in the public domain and people’s personal data being secret.
Aaron Swartz died 10 years ago, driven to suicide by prosecutorial overreach of US attorneys trying to convict him for 35 years in jail for downloading scientific journals in bulk at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Swartz was a technology genius, who championed the cause of open knowledge and open internet. He helped create Rich Simple Site and Creative Commons, and was the co-founder of reddit and digital rights organisation Demand Progress. Beyond the technology contributions, Swartz helped liberate tons of information from government databases and create open access libraries and projects.
In Swartz’s words:
“Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitised and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.”
Across the world, at present, tech companies have taken over control of the information and internet infrastructure. They have co-opted words of internet communities to suit their narratives. In the name of openness and building Digital India, personal information has been commodified. This commodification of information is what Swartz was warning against, how the powerful are taking control of information that should belong to the people. People who understood this fought back against this very idea of gatekeepers of knowledge and information.