There’s an article from John Markoff of the New York Times that has been getting a lot of press recently. It’s titled “Do We Need a New Internet?” and in the article Markoff writes that:
What a new Internet might look like is still widely debated, but one alternative would, in effect, create a “gated community” where users would give up their anonymity and certain freedoms in return for safety. Today that is already the case for many corporate and government Internet users. As a new and more secure network becomes widely adopted, the current Internet might end up as the bad neighborhood of cyberspace. You would enter at your own risk and keep an eye over your shoulder while you were there.
“Unless we’re willing to rethink today’s Internet,” says Nick McKeown, a Stanford engineer involved in building a new Internet, “we’re just waiting for a series of public catastrophes.”
This kind of thinking is ridiculous. While I’m sure everyone would agree that a safer and more trusted internet would be a good thing the idea that one would “give up their anonymity and certain freedoms in return for safety” is just plain scary. The same type of rationale can be used to justify all kinds of infringements upon personal liberty. This same sentence could even have been used to justify the release of library records to help fight terrorism: something I’m pretty sure Markoff would not advocate.
The other question in all of this is who would regulate such an internet? Is it left up to individual governments, ISPs, or some kind of international council? Once you start allowing someone, whoever it is, to regulate the activity of the internet (or any medium for that matter) then the information available will inevitably become censored in some sort.
Personal liberties have already been slowly infringed upon in so many other realms of society that it ought to be the top priority to keep the digital domain open and free. The reality is that once you anonymity and freedom is given up you very rarely get it back.
Link to the full article – “Do We Need a New Internet?” – John Markoff