The internet – what next?

The arguments following Mr Snowden’s leaks have generated a lot of heat, but less light. Inevitably there are political forces at work which help draw the battle lines, and some take up position according to those beliefs. For example, as a generalization, the Republicans see it all as part of the evil empire of Obama and the Democrats. But I doubt a solution – or an effective solution – is going to come from one side or the other of the political spectrum. An effective solution will need to deal with the political issues, but include a wider spectrum of views as well as recognition of whatever the limits or capabilities of technology are.

So, I offer the following essay and rebuttal to try and give you a less politicized view, and a balanced one.

First up, Bruce Schneier‘s essay The US government has betrayed the internet. We need to take it back:

Government and industry have betrayed the internet, and us.

By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards.

This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back.

And by we, I mean the engineering community.

Yes, this is primarily a political problem, a policy matter that requires political intervention.

But this is also an engineering problem, and there are several things engineers can – and should – do.

You can read it all, here.

Next up, the rebuttal by Andrew Russell in The Betrayal of the Internet Imaginaire

…Schneier advances two conventional beliefs about the Internet’s history as well its broader social “imaginaire.” First, Schneier presumes that his readers identify with a techno-utopian Californian Ideology in which the Internet acts as an agent of liberation and democratization. In this interpretation of the Internet’s world-historical role, its birthright is to escape the clutches of governments, memorably described by John Perry Barlow as “weary giants of flesh and steel.” Second, Schneier’s reference to the Internet’s “creators” invites readers to forget the fundamental irony of the Internet’s creation: the American Department of Defense sponsored the research that produced it, and subsidized the implementation of Internet protocols in popular operating systems of the early 1980s. Omission of this fact tempts us to forget the economic realities of Internet standards—a matter I will return to below.

You can read it all, here.

Both contributions are well worth reading. I have not made my mind up yet, but these pieces helped clarify some of the issues.