June 7, 2012

Tech Trends: “Battle For the Internet”

“Battle For the Internet”

I really enjoyed the seven day series of articles that the Guardian put together under the title Battle For the Internet. In a nutshell these are the topics the clusters of articles explore and address under the sequential themes.

 

1st Day: “The New Cold War”

– Exploring forces and issues surrounding an open or closed internet.

 

These articles explore the forces that seek to censure and close the internet. The forces that would control public information and the use of the internet include the usual suspects of the governments in China (controllers of the “Great Firewall”) in some countries in Arabia and Eastern Europe, but interestingly Apple and FaceBook are named as would-be tenders of “Walled Gardens”.

The forces striving to liberate the internet for all include subversive groups like WikiLeaks, and establishment established groups such as US government-funded technology project “Commotion Wireless”. Commotion Wireless enables any smartphone user to connect with other smartphones to form a “mesh network”, or impromptu internet, and hence defy censorship efforts allowing communication in stealth mode.

 

2nd Day: “Militarisation of Cyberspace”

- Cyber “War Games” orchestrated between Chinese and American think tanks

 

Hypothetical “what ifs” are being played out between Chinese and American think tanks with the objective of preventing sudden military escalation between either if they felt they were being targeted.

But real live attacks are being perpetrated including the theft plans and intellectual property from defense manufacturers, government departments, and private companies at the heart of America’s national infrastructure. China has claimed to be the victim of similar espionage and denies responsibility of any attacks.

No matter who is really engaged in cyber warfare, this is the next battlefield.

 

3rd Day: “The New Walled Gardens”

- Technology censorship …

 

TimBL downplays the claims against large corporations becoming monopolies, and questions the persistence of all this data out on the web as “change is rapid”. However the new walled gardens may be our technology. Smartphones are “reductive” limited platforms. This is in part due to the lack of security over the wider telecommunications system, and also due to vendor platform controls on the app side.

 

4th Day: The IP Wars

- Intellectual Property Conception and Legal Framework evolving.
Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was defeated among much fanfare but the struggle over what uses of intellectual property are desirable or legal goes on. The internet has changed the world so much that current legislation is not adequate. Does a home video on the internet of your child’s birthday with a song playing in the background constitute copyright infringement or simply reflect how we enjoy media today? Jonathan Zittrain cautions: “Over-reaching intellectual property laws can block whole swaths of creativity and innovation in the digital world.”

 

5th Day: “’Civilising’ the Web”

- Social norms online and offline, a “law of the internet”?

 

A free and unfettered internet is the apex of freedom of expression, yet expression of child pornography and incitement to violence are not tolerated in most places. In between completely unregulated and extreme controls, the world community has many differing points of view on what social norms are acceptable on the internet.

Given that the internet transcends territories and their localized laws, it may be time for a “law of the internet”. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a specialized agency of the United Nations, wants to expand its regulation to the technology and communication explosion of in the virtual world.

 

6th Day: “The Open Resistance”

- The reformation of copyright, patents and file sharing laws

 

As the future shape of the internet is battled out, there are a plethora of reforms championed. From open sharing of information and a credo to question of authority embraced by groups on one end of the spectrum such as WikiLeaks, Anonymous and the Pirate party, to more conservative organizations whose mission to protect the freedom of speech on the internet employs more traditional methods such as direct action, legal challenges and political advocacy.

 

7th Day: “The End of Privacy”

- Information as Currency

 

These were quite a propos to me today as I’ve recently been shopping (i.e. I visited two sites one evening) for high heel shoes to match a dress for a wedding I am attending. Since those visits, no matter what site I am on, it seems, I see high heel shoes parading up and down the ad space on completely unrelated sites. Is this helpful or invasive? Two articles on Google and Walmart explore the issues associated with our internet data sharing and how that information may be used.

 

This is just a brief synopsis of the points that struck me as among the most interesting. I highly recommend checking out the Battle For the Internet series of articles on the Guardian’s website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/series/battle-for-the-internet.

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