Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Does the "Wild West" Internet need a Jersey Bailiff ?

Net neutrality vs The Baron: Control in the information age

"The Government have insisted in evidence to this inquiry that the responsibility for personal Internet security ultimately rests with the individual. This is no longer realistic, and compounds the perception that the Internet is a lawless ‘wild west’”, the British government.

"You can't just rely on individuals to take responsibility for their own security. They will always be out-foxed by the bad guys."
, Lord Alec Broers the former vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, a friend of Jersey and submissive to the Duke of Kent and the Duke of Edinburgh.

"The Internet is based on a layered, end-to-end model that allows people at each level of the network to innovate free of any central control. By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation."
Vinton Cerf, the architect.

"The remarkable social impact and economic success of the Internet is in many ways directly attributable to the architectural characteristics that were part of its design. The Internet was designed with no gatekeepers over new content or services."
Vinton Cerf, the architect.

There is great care to be taken in not being "out-foxed" by Broers as well. The Internet (broadband) is, in the words of the Portuguese prime minister - a civil engineer - , "the electricity of the 21st century". It is only natural that people will try to control the power supply. How can they do this when it is meant to be out of their control ? Introduce apparently innocuous or even benign regulatory innovation that can be easily subverted to control the use of the Internet, and in particular to restrict the Internet companies. How ? On one hand you have a sheriff who decides what is going to be addressed and what is not. On the other you make the companies accountable for any problems. End result: you own the companies chances and options through the "Sheriff". Did Broers propose a name for the Bailiff yet ?

It all looks very reasonable indeed. Legislation for accountability of software companies with respect to hacking. Accountability for banks with respect to losses; ISP's; retailers; etc. So why is it that other countries did not think of this one yet ? Because the legislation can be an unbearable burden on very many of the internet companies, transferring the power of deciding on who can operate or not to the "Sheriff". It is not that there is moral hazard on the part of the internet companies in what regards security and, therefore, that should not warrant restrictions on internet neutrality. The problems are a natural and inexorable consequence of the complexity of computer systems and cannot be eliminated with legislation. What this does, in this case, is to overburden very many companies and place their operational latitude in the hands of the policing body. i.e. control over net neutrality.

Let me run this by you again:
The British government is pretending to misunderstand computer security. It is not that companies do not improve it because they don't want to, it is because they are unnable to. The policing body wants to have controls over the majority of enterprises by reclaiming the capacity to arbiter on who is safe enough to operate and who is not, where most can be considered unsafe. The control that the government proposes is arbitrary and in the hands of the "Jersey Bailiff" it means that the burocrats call who stays in business according to arbitrary standards.

I think that Britain is having some trouble coping with the fact that there are things in life that you can not and should not control. I have been reading in awe the news in the UK press about the social web phenomena:

Facebook is turning us all into introverts.
Facebook is bad for the brain.
Facebook is a platform for cyberbulying.

And something on Bebo, but not much about MySpace. What is the difference ?
The difference is that MySpace is owned by NewsCorp and Facebook is indy. The press manifests preference for an initiative that is, in essence, the same thing in a different flavor, with comparable audiences (despite what people say), with comparable levels of popularity, but a double standard with respect to attacks. Does this tell the reader something about the nature of things ? Well, maybe its just me !

The need for greater security leading to increased centralized controls. The new expression of the same old menace.

And now, there are those who wish to keep information on phone calls and emails for the sake of security and confidence ????
People have enough confidence in the Internet to use it without dramatic losses. What they don't trust is the British government.

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