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It Looks Like The Internet Will Get More Restricted Before It Is Freed

If we accept the premise that a meaningful rollback of NSA surveillance is not in the cards (and so it seems, since progressives are occupied with another issue and the libertarians who are opposed to it probably don’t know how to transform sentiment into meaningful political action), then the existing internet is too compromised and is to be replaced.

In a previous post of mine and in the comments thereto one model emerged of how this might come about. It is essentially based on the vision of Rick Falvinge to “rebuild [web security] from the ground up.”

More specifically, a commenter (#5) on my earlier post says that in discussions of the issue that he has heard, this idea has emerged:

A centralized internet backbone in a Switzerland-like location overseen by an international congress of privacy guards. The world’s trusted telecoms would be located here, as well. There would be nodes in Asia and the non-US Americas — also overseen by the privacy congress. I imagine Vatican-style industrial zones outside the control of any nation where they might be located.

But as also noted in that post another vision has been feared by Google boss Eric Schmidt, who warns of a “balkanization” of the internet, where as a result of (in his view) the publicity about the surveillance, individual countries will implement “very serious encryption,” so as to split the internet into one internet per country.

Enter Dilma Rousseff.

As everyone has now heard, the President of Brazil or her advisors has/have been sufficiently incensed by the NSA spying on their country to “postpone” her state visit to the US that was to take place next month. But what has garnered less publicity is that she has also set a series of measures in motion to require companies operating in the country to store their data there and to lay a new underwater fiber optic cable to Europe in order to bypass the US, through which most of the country’s global internet traffic now passes. The official in charge of implementing the first measure has confirmed it (h/t/ wendydavis).

In another development, first the two Defense Ministers and then the two Foreign Ministers of Brazil and Argentina have met to to discuss how to counter NSA spying on Brazil and the rest of Latin America, and the latter pair in particular have said that they will work specifically to “advance the development of cyber tools to protect communications and strategic information storage.”

So it would appear that we are going to get Schmidt’s “very serious encryption” at least at a regional level, if not at the level of individual countries. One can also easily imagine those two countries drawing most of South America (if probably not Chile or Colombia) into their orbit on this.

IT experts in the US have already wrung their hands over this development, but who in Latin America is going to listen to them? And as for that vision of “a centralized internet backbone in a Switzerland-like location,” that sounds like Western Europe. You know, that place that stood by sheepishly while the US forced down Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for Dilma to listen to folks there.

So it looks like it is going to be hard to get your signal into the countries around the Brazil-Argentina axis if there is the slightest chance it includes malware. The same goes for your telecoms and software developers and, once they figure out down there that their computers are already infected with stuxnet, your hardware manufacturers as well.

South America is going to have its own internet and IT industry, and that situation is going to pertain for the foreseeable future.

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E. F. Beall

E. F. Beall