About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

09 April 2012

The Battle for the Control of the Internet

I came across this great article (via Bruce Schneier's blog) on the battle for regulating the Internet. As the article notes, the Internet was designed to operate without central control; so the very notion of trying to enforce control, 20 odd years after the Internet really took off, is closing the gate after the horse has bolted.

There are a few "battles"; on content, on the underlying infrastructure and off course on snooping and monitoring.

On the content front, this is probably the oldest battle - in the early years (not really focused in the article) there was a lot of focus on unsavory content such as child pornography or bomb manuals. The modern battle is on copyright infringement especially from the large media houses - and this has been very much a loosing battle (so far). This is where SOPA, PIPA etc come in.

Monitoring and snooping, especially in the US, has very much come to the fore post 9-11. Other countries have also jumped into the bandwagon; both democracies like India and autocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia (both examples related to BBM). Technologies that are difficult to snoop on, such as Skype, have attracted numerous academic investigations.

The underlying infrastructure is probably the most politically charged. The Internet was invented in USA, and the underlying control is vested in ICANN, whichm although a non-profit organisation, remains linked to the US government. There has been numerous calls from a number of countries to move ICANN to an international body, such as the ITU. This is one of the main discussion points in the article; but the rationalle on why ITU could be a good move is not really well argued (or well defended by the proposing parties). Other infrastructure propositions such as DNSSEC or IPV6 migration aren't really discussed; although these are mired more in practical issues than political battles.

Ultimately, there are pros and cons for all three "battles" - but ultimately I think a number of these problems will remain intractable. The battle over ICANN will remain politically charged, and not really go anywhere in the near term. Monitoring and snooping has become a lot easier with Facebook and other social media; but at the same time solutions such as Freenet (which has never really taken off) are even easier to implement.

But World War 3? I don't think it's that dire yet.