Wednesday29 March 2023

Should we be more concerned about privacy now?

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The election is over and nothing much has changed as far as the balance of power in the US, which makes us wonder if we should be concerned about a free and open internet more than ever. We know that the head of the MPAA Chris Dodd has close ties to the Whitehouse and also to many members of Congress. To make things worse Dodd will be free to openly interact with all of his former buddies sometime in February of 2013. We know that he has, and still is, pushing for laws to monitor and control the internet to protect the interests of the other members of his cartel. However, there is more to this dynamic than we first saw last year during the barrage of ignorant and oppressive laws trying to limit communication (and technological advances) and it has to do with a particular mindset.

President Obama is arguably one of the most tech savvy and tech happy Presidents that we have had in the US. On the surface this seems like a great thing to anyone that is into technology. Obama likes tech, we like tech. What is there to go wrong, right? Although we will not debate about economic, foreign, or even domestic/social policies, here we can talk about polices as they relate to the internet and its use as a communications tool. I am also not here to say whether President Obama is a good or bad President. That is up to history to decide. We are here to talk about the mindset of someone that has “TechnoJoy”.

Simply put, President Obama is acting like any tech savvy/happy person would, and many network engineers do. As an example: I personally keep my home network very secure. My kids suffered through having a Network Engineer as a dad for most of their lives. Their access to the Internet was monitored, limited, and controlled in ways that many corporations would be envious of. I did not do this to be mean to them, it was all about protecting them from the dangers that exist on the internet from malware to predators. Now, think about someone who has TechnoJoy and is suddenly given access to massive amounts of technology, along with some very sharp engineers to make things happen. It would be like a kid in a candy store, and a store with a shopkeeper who actually wanted to give away all of the candy. On top of that you have a couple of buddies in there helping you pick out the best pieces of candy!

This is the situation that President Obama finds himself in. He loves technology and now has access to almost all of it. He also has people that have been trying to get their tech projects off the ground for years whispering in his ear about how great these things are, with outside influences adding in their two cents. To paraphrase Eddie Izzard; when you have TechnoJoy, you take the technology and throw the manual explaining how it works out the window. This is a very fitting example if you look at some of the happenings over the last few years. The US has been implicated in more than one Cyber-Attack, and there have been multiple bills proposed to tighten internet “security”, as well as executive orders to monitor and control communication over the internet.

I can picture the President hearing about how a worm/malware could be used to not only cripple someone’s nuclear efforts, but also to spy on them. He doesn’t read the manual and the warnings on the back that explain how it is possible to track code, how the malware might get out, and also that the country that it was used on might decide to retaliate; instead he might see only the shiny new gadget and toss the manual right out the window. Of course, the President is also at a disadvantage; he has people saying they will take care of everything and he puts his trust in them to do so. When they screw up he gets left holding the bag. Now, those same people are coming back and asking for more control and monitoring to protect the US from retaliation (even though their original screw up is why we need it). Again, the manual is thrown out the window simply because there is a need for “national security”, and these same people say they will use it wisely and in accordance with the “law”, as long as the President can sign this executive order to expand some of those laws.

Now, let’s add in a third dynamic. We have the MPAA, RIAA, and other copyright holders asking for systems to be put in place to control and monitor the internet even more. These controls are not to protect against nation states, but against private entities that are endangering their revenue stream. They do not exactly sell things that way though. They paint a picture of protecting US intellectual property (even though US television and movies draw heavily on foreign films and TV) and also US Jobs. They add in that their systems and procedures can be used by the government to enhance their ability to protect our exposed infrastructure and so everyone wins. Well, everyone but the people that have their privacy stripped away in the name of national security and to protect a dying business model. To make things even more attractive, these cartels explain how they can push the cost of this back on the masses. They force the ISPs to pay for it and they, in turn, raise their prices to cover the expense.

In the meantime the MPAA, RIAA and others urge the administration to go on the offensive against piracy. They need some big wins to show the people how bad it is and why these new and oppressive measures are needed. They attack popular and noteworthy sites to get them offline. In the case of Megaupload, they bit off more than they could chew, but that is for another article. These attacks are meant to show how much time and money could be saved with the systems they want to put in place. Think of how much money could be saved if these same sites could be blocked with the “flip of a switch”?  Again, the manual is thrown out the window complete with the warnings about potential security problems.

Following the logic here, it is easy to see how a tech savvy/happy President is exactly what many groups want. They need someone that likes technology, but who knows enough to be dangerous. This is what we currently have with President Obama. If the president were more technologically competent he might ask the right “what if?” questions and demand explanations of potential consequences as well. Instead, we are in a worse position than we would be if we had a president that was not tech happy. Sadly, this is not the case and it does not bode well for the internet and personal privacy for the next few years.

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Last modified on Thursday, 08 November 2012 15:40

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