Responding to PRISM: The Internet is global. Duh… Who knew…

Posted on June 8, 2013


The Internet is global. Duh… Who knew…

Well that’s great, and the Internet is driving the global economy (and providing particular advantages to certain elements in that global economy; and its become the platform of choice for among others the military and of course security and surveillance.

So far so good and all the rhetoric around how the Internet supports freedom and democracy and how the Internet tears down boundaries and opens up societies and is creating this global drive for free speech and open, well.. everything…

But whoa, Houston we have a problem… Someone has just been so nasty as to leak the fact that at least one of the US three letter agencies has been nobbling the major Internet companies (well in fact, US Internet companies… and of course, apart from one or two in China that no one has ever heard of, are there any others…) to provide information on whoever, whenever and whyever the good folks in brass hats in Washington choose to ask for it (or probably whenever they choose to look for it because the process of whether or not they need to ask is still somewhat murky).

And when the nasty revelations about this cause a sh@t storm of negative press from all and sundry, the good folks in Washington from the President on down seem to rather interestingly forget that the Internet is in fact a global network of networks–linking all of us happy folks including some (of course, a significant but not overwhelming number) in the good old US of A together into this steaming vibrating pile of interconnections, Facebook likes, Google  pluses, YouTube views and gmails and so on and so on. Rather they come out with statements like “It [PRISM] cannot be used to intentionally target any US citizen, any other US person, or anyone located within the United States,” said James Clapper, the director of national intelligence; or observation like “although US authorities have confirmed the existence of PRISM, they insist agents only have the right to access material posted by foreigners“.

Well guys, it may come as something of a revelation to you folks in the good old US of A that on the Internet not only can’t you tell if anyone is a dog but you can’t even tell if anyone is an American and therein lies a rub. If the best reassurance that the folks arguing for their own rather belated 1984 machine can offer is that “it’s okay we don’t use the Internet to target Americans”; well what is it and who is it that you are targeting (presumably non-Americans) and then who gave you the authorization and more importantly the right to do that to all of us everyone everywhere… (and what measures are in place for us to hold you accountable for what you are doing and what mistakes or other that you might commit.)

Oh well sorry, yes I forgot, there is that huge movement of the righteous and the enlightened–the Hands off the Internet/Internet Freedom brigade–led of course, by the USG and funded by Google and staffed by the twitterier elements of Civil Society specifically concerned to ensure that no nasty hands are allowed to get in and “govern” the Internet since the Internet is only able to do its magic if it is left completely pristine and ungoverned — well except for when the USG decides that it wants to do something, find something, track somebody or track everybody and then of course, that doesn’t matter because following the law they won’t do it against Americans (maybe).

And fortunately because the Justice League (the USG, Google and all) have been sufficiently vociferous, twisted enough arms and legs and put enough money into the various Civil Society begging bowls that any possibility of a global framework to respond or manage or protect any of the rest of us was vetoed.  Well too bad for us. Maybe we will know better next time.

We need a Civil Society that will stand up for everybody and not just the followers of the Red, White and Blue; a technical community that recognizes it has responsibilities to the entire world  which is now in the process of merrily transforming itself through its wondrous creation the Internet and not just to their US paymasters; Internet corporations that recognize that their clients are global and thus their client responsibilities are global and not just to those in the gilded hallways and corridors of Silicon Valley and DC backrooms; and most of all we need governments that are able and willing to stand up for all of us.

And they need to recognize that, Duh, the Internet is global and that appropriate strategies, mechanisms, institutions that can give us rights as global Internet enabled citizens and provide us with means to hold those building their castles and sand castles and armories on the Internet to account need to be created and created now before the current out of control situation takes us all over some unanticipated but inevitable cliff.