The Symbiotic Web is the theory that I have developed to underpin my thesis. Essentially, it suggests that a form of symbiosis is developing on the web. Individuals and commercial enterprises are mutually dependent: enterprises have built business models reliant on a currency of personal data, while individuals depend on free access to many services, from search engines, email systems and social networking sites to media services such as YouTube. These ‘free’ services use personal data as their way of generating revenues – through targeted advertising, profile building, and the direct sale of personal data. The symbiosis is essentially benign – it lies behind many positive developments on the internet. It benefits both the users and the businesses who provide services through the internet. Nevertheless, there are significant risks associated with this symbiotic nature that need to be addressed.
My thesis looks at the nature of these risks, how they might develop in the future, and at the approaches that may be taken to address them.
The concept of the Symbiotic Web was presented in a paper given at the BILETA conference in Winchester in April 2009: “Web 2.5: The Symbiotic Web” (the slides from which are available here) and is the subject of a paper of the same title that was published in the International Review of Law, Computers & Technology in March 2010. Click here to access the article.