Thursday, July 20, 2017

Consent of the Networked

Consent of the Networked; The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom
© 2012 Rebeca MacKinnon
352 pages



A couple of weeks ago I read Who Controls the Internet, which covered in part nation-states’ role in reasserting national boundaries in cyberspace. Consent of the Networked  examines threats to the open internet, both from states and corporations.  The threats are not always overt, like the Chinese state apparatus that keeps the Chinese internet connected to the global net only through a half-dozen filtered gateways, or the common suppression of social networks in times of social unrest, as we witnessed in Tunisia and Egypt during their respective revolutions, and in Iran during the controversial reelection of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.   The author also examines more indirect threats to an open internet; the  irresponsible privacy policies at Facebook, for instance, which  issue updates that change privacy settings without giving appropriate forewarning. In some countries, a policy update that exposes bloggers, tweeters, etc’s real identities can lead to imprisonment or worse.  Other threats include the end of Net Neutrality,  an end which might channel people into using particular social networks. If those networks are as cavalier about user info as places like Yahoo and Facebook have been,  activists and others could be compromised all too easily. MacKinnon also sees overly-aggressive attempts by companies to protect their intellectual property as a threat to free expression.

Intriguingly, MacKannon does not demonize solely the private sector or the public; both have compromised people, and the free democracies have few bragging rights: just recently, the United States and United Kingdom were both named as ‘enemies of the Internet’ for their intensive surveillance.   (Sometimes public and private work together, as when Cisco became a partner to China in its firewall enterprise, and Yahoo thoughtlessly handed over user info when requested…again, by China.) MacKinnon isn’t particularly enthusiastic about the United Nations, either, but  holds that international agreements are a necessary road forward given the internet’s global nature.  While the only surprise here for me was the degree of European governments' internet surveillance and strictures. Given their constant run-ins with Google over privacy, I'd had the impression they were better about safeguarding private internet security than the U.S.


9 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Stephen. I really ought to read this and learn more about the Internet. It's interesting, isn't, that something so much a part of our lives is simply used but not understood by nearly everyone. That seems like a dangerous ignorance. And I'm among the most ignorant.

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    1. I would venture to say that the majority of people know virtually nothing about the world in which we live. Those who DO know things tend to specialize in that thing, so bankers know banking, but nothing about electrical transmission. As far as most of us are concerned, the lights come on and the toilet flushes by magic. And if we live in cities, just think of how much stuff is going on under the hood -- from infrastructure to city services. Busy, busy, busy!

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  2. interesting that this seems to be a topic of concern to so many... maybe those of us who are older and remember large parts of our lives that were lived without the internet are not so much alarmed by it's possible disappearance... so much of human history is here today, gone tomorrow... but maybe i have my head in the sand...

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    1. @Mudpuddle: I am still getting used to the fact that the internet is everyday infrastructure, and not this cyber-world that only computer geeks have access to.

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  3. No surprise here that the UK is an 'enemy of the Internet'. Governments on both sides want to control (or at the very least monitor) on-line activities - in everyone's best interests of course!!!

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    1. Has your awareness of persistent surveillance changed your behavior? There's a forum for fiction writers I cruise sometimes (not because I write it, but because they're bookish people), and they joke about the dangerous web searches they do when doing research for novels.

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    2. Well, I wouldn't call it persistent as such.... Sure there's a lot of camera's around but I hardly give them a 2nd thought. Google store your searches for a while but I doubt mine are very different from the average. OK, I have a lot of books in my Amazon Wish List about Left Wing politics, revolutions, terrorist organisations and such but I doubt if any alarm bells are going off anywhere. Now if I *was* up to no good..... Then I'd really clean up my Internet presence and start avoiding street camera's a bit more (oh, and buy burn phones!).

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  4. This sounds like an interesting and important book. It cannot be overstated how important the Internet is in terms of communication. These issues impact that communication, and thus humanity in all sorts of ways.

    I would like to read this.

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  5. @Brian We seem to be using the internet even when we don't realize it! I'm thinking of messaging apps on phones, for instance. They're so integrated that people might be using facebook, or their phone's text service..

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