Paranoia, Paranoia, everybody's coming to get me...

I was talking to someone recently about the future of the internet. His take on it was that current system we have is very unorganized and insecure, and that we can do better in the future.

He's right, of course: it's no secret that there are Linkstructural problems in the current internet standards.
Whenever someone clicks on a fake ebay email and gives out their credit information to a scammer, he is feeling the effects of the internet's loose security infrastructure.
Of course, spam and piracy are also, at root, an authentication problem.
And quality of service is a joke... if I want to set up a low-latency channel to talk to someone on the other side of the planet... basically, I can't.

But leaving all this aside, we should be HAPPY with the network we have now. Why? Because we have a lot of freedom. At least in the States, nobody is really making a serious effort to tell you what you can and can not access online. You can find porn, pirated software, music, bomb making instructions, websites promoting cult religions, and every kind of subversive literature online. Anything and everything is available, and with suitable security precautions, you are untraceable. Wireless is, of course, the most gaping security hole in the system, but there are others.

All this is going to change. It has to. What we are seeing now is the "wild west" stage of the web's evolution. The online world has evolved so much faster than the mindsets of government agencies and politicos, that people have come to feel that the online world is invincible. But nothing could be further from the truth. Someday, e-commerce will be taxed, like everything else. Filesharing will be prosecuted the same way drug use has been, and by the same methods-- secret police, informants, special agencies. Security will be enforced by webs of trust between vendors and governments.

I do not know if it will come to this... but in theory, it is possible to give everyone on the internet an ID. Once that step is taken, it's a simple matter to track. Why not? After all, we live in an era where even the confidentiality of public libraries has been challenged. The RealID legislation passed Congress, and it will soon be necessary to carry an ID at all times in the States. Google it if you don't believe me. Tracking web traffic is just the logical next step.

And as for software piracy: there is a big push towards so-called secure computing. For those who haven't heard of it, secure computing is basically a code word for network-based access control and copy protection. I'm not even going to try to provide a neutral link for this, but here is a somewhat biased one which I think is pretty succinct.

Maybe I'm just a pessimist. But I see all of these technologies... RFIDs, "trusted computing", spyware, ad databases... and none of them seem to really be adding anything. They all seem to take away more and more of the privacy and freedom that the US has always claimed to value so highly. I look at the current state of the internet, and I see an entire electronic continent ready to be settled. Is it possible that, decades from now, we will look back from our highly secure, locked-down network, on these early days, and see them as the golden age of the internet?

I'm going to go put on my tinfoil hat now.


At 11:15 PM, Blogger blockinganonymousislame said...

I think it's important to stay aware of things like this, but people were saying a lot of the same things about the internet a decade ago.


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