"The Internet has been turned into a giant surveillance machine"

I have just received the latest ISOC newsletter with a link to the press release after the 88th meeting of the Internet Enginering Task Force in Vancouver (hosted by Huawei), attended by 1100 of the engineers who created the Internet that we know today and keep it running. The heading for the press release is “Leading Engineers agree to upgrade standards to improve Internet privacy and security”. The tone was, however set by Bruce Schneier: ” The Internet has been turned into a giant surveillance machine. This is not just about any particular country or indvidual action. We need to work broadly to fix the problems of today and tomorrow”.    

The UK government plans to censor the Internet, beginning with pornography and moving onto to political extremism is probably less of threat to individual privacy than the actions of those already tracing the source and destination of content that they claim is illegal or stolen in order to bring civil actions. Both need to be seen in the context of the German action against Google Analytics because it offers a degree of collation to which the Stasi aspired in vain. Meanwhile the Cabinet Office “Open Data Strategy“, allied to HMG’s enthusiasm for Cloud and Big Data probably presents bit as big a threat to personal privacy as anything the NSA or Google might plan.

We should, however, remember that surveys regularly appear to show that 2/3rd of us welcome data sharing to improve services and only 1/3 regard it as a threat.

Is that still true?

In 1991, in a BBC programme to introduce a competition for school-girl produced IT careers videos, Angela Rumbold (filmed using her constituency computer because her Department of Education officials had refused support) described the computer as an extension of her mind. Today your smart phone is the window for for Big Brother into your mind.
This is a debate that will run and run.

I personally like the idea that under common law we own our own personal information and that all others, including the state and its quangos as well as our Internet Service Providers are agents, owing us a duty or care and/or royalties – with “shrink wrapped” and “click wrapped” voided as unreadable and unfair terms and conditions.       

However, far more interesting to you, is what will happen if the Internet Engineering Task Force attempts to turn its rhetoric into action.

Is the Internet still run by freedom loving engineers?

Or are they now only the puppets of US IPR lawyers and defence contractors?      



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