Indie, Privacy, Net Neutrality

This is probably one of those occasions where two independent social/political events and/or movements garner steam at the same time so that some time down the road you can't really be sure that they are in fact independent or if there is maybe a causal relationship. Ever since the Snowden Revelations 1 there is a heightened interest in privacy issues related to the internet. Also, the behemoths of the digital age, such as Amazon, Facebook, Google etc. have come under increased scrutiny on the part of their users and customers firstly as to what they intend to do with the data they collect about each and everyone of us and secondly to what extend their data collection efforts makes them an easy inroad for government agencies to track and trace all citizens independently of their involvement with criminal activities. So basically there are three perspectives you can take to look at the whole, complex mess the current situation is. The two that are currently discussed most in the public are:

  1. The relationship with the giants of the internet, what data they have and collect and what they do with it. There are many angles here, from technical approaches promoted for example by IndieWeb, Aral Balkan's Indiephone and a lot of things that will be discussed this week at Decentralize Camp in Duesseldorf to the more economically inspired idea of assigning a price-tag to your personal information as described and elaborated in as Jaron Lanier describes in Who Owns the Future? and Doc Searls elaborated on in The Intention Economy.
  2. Finding ways to deal with snoopy and overzealous governments around the world pursuing absolute security from whatever they determine to be a threat. See Cory Doctorow's excellent talk about the Internet as a Force for Liberation at Next14 earlier this month.

There is, in my opinion, a third perspective that seems to get a little less attention at the moment and that is the issue of net neutrality. Imaging a situation in which carriers essentially decide which content you have access to. Of course this is not the situation right now and everyone working at the FCC will go to great lengths to explain to you that you will continue to have access to the entire Internet only that some services will work a lot faster than others. That will not be the case forever. We all know how this works. You start with innocent rules and take great care to explain that they will never again be changed or exploited in any way. And a few years down the line, once everyone has accepted the new rules of the game and the lobbyists have had enough time to do their job properly, there will be new rules. So let's not get fooled by the recent EU Parliament voting on Net Neutrality. This is not the end of the fight. The voting will have to be put into practice first and, let's face it, the EU is only a small part of the world. Let's not make the mistake to discuss solutions for privacy and data ownership without thinking about how a segmented and TelCo controlled internet would compromise these efforts.

1: Anyone else curious to see the book with the title?

© 2013-2014 Henning Hoyer