Safety, Freedom, and the New York Times

A reader sent me this article from the New York Times – Do We Need a New Internet?

Let me summarize:

HOLY F#$%ING SHIT THE SKY IS FALLING!

THE INTERNET IS A FATALLY FLAWED CESSPOOL OF ANONYMITY, CRIMINALITY, AND DESPAIR. IF WE DON’T SURRENDER OUR ANONYMITY AND FREEDOM, EVILDOERS WILL DESTROY EVERYTHING YOU LOVE.

End scene.

Ok… maybe that was slightly overdramatic, I mean, a least they didn’t use any curses, but that really is the general gist of the article. 

What they are talking about is making a new Internet infrastructure that is more rigid and controllable. One that is supposed to validate identity, and make it easier to provide for a secure browsing experience. It’s one of those ideas that is a nice idea on paper. 

The truth is that there is so much about this article to criticize, I really can’t do it all myself. So, I’m going to start with the concept of anonymity and direct you to Links.

Anonymity 

Just because you think you can identify a person doesn’t mean you can. In fact, believing that you can validate identity can make for more lax security because it creates a false sense of security. For example:

We put license plates on cars so that we can identify who owns and operates that particular automobile. However, that doesn’t mean that the person who has registered that car is the driver, or is even in possession of it. So when someone packs that car full of explosives and detonates it in a public place, the fact that it had a license plate on it is meaningless. It could have been a stolen car, the plates could have been changed, that validation of identity doesn’t mean much when a real crime goes down.

From a personal freedom standpoint, anonymity provides security. The freedom to take in the information that you want without fear of reprisal from a governing body. Granted privacy on the Internet is in a sorry state, but that’s a story for many other posts (and there are people working on a practical solution to the problem). 

Always a Better Hacker

If there is one law of the Internet that has constantly proven itself true over my lifetime, it’s that there is always a better hacker. The best security is inevitably compromised. Especially when it is propped up as something that is going to revolutionize security. 

There are a lot of people out there who just like to hack. Some are good, some are evil, and many like to dwell in the gray. The point is, whatever security is developed will be broken. Then we have gone through a lot of hassles, spent a lot of money, and surrendered our freedoms for nothing.

It’s Your Fault the Internet is Dangerous

I’m sorry, but it’s true.

Even the best security in the world can’t protect a user from him/herself. As I discuss in this post, no security in the world can protect you from yourself. If you don’t keep your computer up-to-date, maintain your own security, and judiciously choose what web sites you will visit, which links you will click on, and which applications you will download, your computer will constantly be crippled by malware. 

You have to take personal accountability for your own safety and security. Restructuring the Internet with less freedom is a digital equivalent of putting you in a cage to protect you from yourself. 

Them’s Fighting Words

“A more secure network is one that would almost certainly offer less anonymity and privacy. That is likely to be the great tradeoff for the designers of the next Internet. One idea, for example, would be to require the equivalent of drivers’ licenses to permit someone to connect to a public computer network. But that runs against the deeply held libertarian ethos of the Internet.

Attacking the very principles that have made the Internet a revolution is ridiculous. With all of the laws and policing organizations we have in the physical world, we are still ravaged by theft, rape, murder, and corruption. All of the controlling mechanisms we have instituted haven’t saved us from malicious behavior. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to stop theft, rape, murder, and corruption, but maybe there are better ways of doing things online.

Maybe a greater degree of freedom and transparency, of personal control instead of institutionalized control will work. Our Internet isn’t a perfect one, but what environment is? 

Maybe the Old Gray Lady just doesn’t like the current Internet because it is a threat to it’s own relevancy.

Your thoughts?

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