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Repression, new and improved!
December 16, 2003 9:30 AM   Subscribe

A Net of Control "Picture, if you will, an information infrastructure that encourages censorship, surveillance and suppression of the creative impulse. Where anonymity is outlawed and every penny spent is accounted for. Where the powers that be can smother subversive (or economically competitive) ideas" Brought to you by (among others)......Microsoft !
posted by troutfishing (53 comments total)

 
While this cyberslack has its downside—porn, credit-card fraud and insincere bids on eBay—it was considered a small price to pay for free speech and friction-free business models.

Why is porn lumped in with fraud? I'm really irritated with this rampant, uncritical assessment of internet porn. If you look at it in a certain light, porn is the most successful internet commodity. It is capitalism at its finest. Furthermore, any attempt to censor internet porn would run counter to the notion of freedom that this article purports to defend.

Other than that, I agree with the sentiment of the article. However, just as we've seen with the restrictions on liberty that have occurred in the "real" world over the past couple of decades (no, not just during the current US Administration), when the freedoms are taken incrementally, there's less chance of anyone objecting.

It is amazing to me that most people don't use a simple principle to evaluate the worthiness of proposed legislation: the implementation of legislation will always realize the worst possible scenario permitted by law.
posted by yesster at 9:43 AM on December 16, 2003


(first paragraph of above post should have bee italicized; it is a direct quote from the linked article)
posted by yesster at 9:44 AM on December 16, 2003


Didn't Larry Lessig say all of this in Code a few years ago?
posted by yerfatma at 9:48 AM on December 16, 2003


That's in no way a complaint about the post, I'm just wondering what this article is presenting that's new, given its tone.
posted by yerfatma at 9:49 AM on December 16, 2003


ReichOS
posted by crunchburger at 9:52 AM on December 16, 2003


Not that it's a double post or anything, but maybe it should have been posted in here.
posted by signal at 10:04 AM on December 16, 2003


"The best-known implementation of this scheme is the work in progress at Microsoft known as Next Generation Secure Computing Base (formerly called Palladium). It will be part of Longhorn, the next big Windows version, out in 2006. Intel and AMD are onboard to create special secure chips that would make all computers sold after that point secure."

Everyone who thinks MS won't fug this up, raise your hand.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:11 AM on December 16, 2003


Well. At least MSNBC was able to publish the article. Just imagine if Disney made all the operating systems.
posted by coelecanth at 10:26 AM on December 16, 2003


Actually, you could tell it is inevitable from a book from 1989.
posted by infowar at 10:30 AM on December 16, 2003


I miss the good ole days of the internet. That said i like my bandwidth, I feel confident that there will always be people undermining security, and that even though we are approaching a dystopia i have faith that there are those amongst us who will lash out politically, technological, and with ideology. That's my theology anyway..... got a bit carried away with those ology's.

Still I think one of the biggest arguments that the US or any government has for this kind of system is quite simply "What do you have to hide." Which for me is kind of a comparison to what my mother used to ask me when i would argue to come home after 12. She would always say without fail, "James tell me one good thing going on after 12, and i might let you go."

I'm not saying i want a new parental figure, or that i would even be happy with it, but if you assume that you are a law abiding citizen what good argument do you really have against it.
posted by sourbrew at 10:36 AM on December 16, 2003


Luckily, not all creative acitivities need to involve computers.

In the Soviet Era, Solzhenitsyn and others managed to get their work circulated through a number of means, including hand-written copies. The implications should be lost on no one, I hope.
posted by briank at 10:37 AM on December 16, 2003


I, for one, welcome our new dark net overlords.

(Just had to say that, didn't I?)
posted by nofundy at 10:41 AM on December 16, 2003


although he's already gotten an FPP, John Walker deserves some attention (hacker diet, RetroPsychoKinesis Project, etc.) here's the full Digital Imprimatur that the MSNBC article references.

"slowly, surely the screw will tighten ..." urp.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:56 AM on December 16, 2003


... if you assume that you are a law abiding citizen what good argument do you really have against it.

I am a law abiding citizen and I don't trust corporations or governments to control my sources (or dissemination) of information.
posted by whatnot at 11:00 AM on December 16, 2003


...if you assume that you are a law abiding citizen what good argument do you really have against it.

The set of all things one might be embarrassed/sensitive about but are not illegal.

(Looking for a new job, researching a disease, looking at weird but legal porn, yada yada yada.)
posted by callmejay at 11:03 AM on December 16, 2003


Sourbrew: please tell me you're joking.

We'd like to do a visual inspection and swab of your 15-year-old daughter's vagina every day at 4:00 pm for signs of rape. As long as you're a law-abiding citizen, and haven't been raping your daughter, what good argument do you really have against it?
posted by Ptrin at 11:09 AM on December 16, 2003


sourbrew: I am a law abiding citizen who grew up under a vicous right-wing dictatorship.
Trust me, I have plenty of arguments against it.
posted by signal at 11:09 AM on December 16, 2003


if you assume that you are a law abiding citizen what good argument do you really have against it

you're assuming that it's OK for my ISP/bank/landlord/etc. to all share a collective database of information about me ...

and that there are no legitimate reasons for engaging the Internet anonymously ...

and that no one could/would use my information for nefarious purposes.

as impossible as it seems, i do worry for the future of an open Net. it just seems far too dangerous to those with power.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:11 AM on December 16, 2003


...if you assume that you are a law abiding citizen what good argument do you really have against it.

Uh, primarily that it serves no legitimate interest of a government, under the jurisdiction of the US Constitution.

If that's not a good enough argument, then there's no America to defend.
posted by yesster at 11:13 AM on December 16, 2003


And you wonder why governments the world over are switching to open-source?
posted by signal at 11:14 AM on December 16, 2003


but if you assume that you are a law abiding citizen what good argument do you really have against it.
I assume that businesses and the governments are
A)not necessarily law abiding and
B)In control of defining what law abiding is.
posted by mss at 11:20 AM on December 16, 2003


Yesster nails it.
posted by Ptrin at 11:27 AM on December 16, 2003


He has very valid concerns. However....

Aren't something like 2/3 of web servers currently running Apache? What would it take to make all those admins flip over to a proprietary DRM-enabled system?

He describes a scenario where someone updating their personal website is forced to sign their new page digitally before uploading and serving it. Wouldn't most people just say "it ain't worth the hassle" and do something else with their time? Wouldn't the most likely outcome of forced DRM be that users simply walk away?

As Outlawyr is asking, aren't the chances that Microsoft (or anyone, for that matter) will build a perfectly functioning global system pretty infinitesimal? And wouldn't a global system based on legal enforcement require agreements between most nations on Earth? While we're at it, maybe they could agree on steel quotas, sugar subsidies, nuclear proliferation, global warming, whale hunts, etc. etc.

Count me sympathetic, but skeptical.
posted by gimonca at 11:28 AM on December 16, 2003


...if you assume that you are a law abiding citizen what good argument do you really have against it.

bad laws.

Aren't something like 2/3 of web servers currently running Apache? What would it take to make all those admins flip over to a proprietary DRM-enabled system?

bad managers and bad customers.

seriously, the advantages of the system being described are worth enumerating. this will allow easy and secure and ubiquitous ecommerce; it will eliminate spam and virii; and it will make hacking *from* a machine which was tied into the system all but impossible.

nobody will have to force anybody to buy into this system, my mother in law will think this is a great plan because it allows her to download her quilting patterns without having to deal with any of that other stupid stuff; and the corporations who sell stuff online care a lot more about what she wants than what i want, because she buys anything you put in front of her and i only buy science fiction books.

so companies who want to court my mother in law will go along with this scheme, and people who want to do business with those companies will go along. and eventually the "buy ins" will simply stop talking to the "no buy ins" and we'll have a nice bifurcated internet, where i can send email to my scruffy hacker friends but not to my mother in law.
posted by hob at 11:56 AM on December 16, 2003


Well, for example we have the FBI including law-abiding protesters in their surveilance networks.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:01 PM on December 16, 2003


"Wouldn't the most likely outcome of forced DRM be that users simply walk away?" - Exactly. That's a very efficient outcome which would serve to stiffle dissent.
posted by troutfishing at 12:13 PM on December 16, 2003


Let's assume that the Internet as we know it does get coopted by industry and government, exactly as described. What would we do?

Isn't it possible that we could essentially create our own alternative 'net, ala BBS's? The html technology is already open. We've done BBS's before. Couldn't anybody go ahead and create a router node that supports html, with a different network of proxies to resolve domain names/IP addresses?

Granted, I don't have the technical know-how to do this, but certainly the system is open enough that jumping ship would be possible?
posted by yesster at 12:38 PM on December 16, 2003


Oh, and nobody else cares about the porn tangent I mentioned in my first post? Come on folks . . . PORN!!
posted by yesster at 12:39 PM on December 16, 2003


" ...if you assume that you are a law abiding citizen what good argument do you really have against it."

By the same logic why not let the government tap your phone. If you have nothing to hide, whats wrong with them listening to every word you say?

Also, "law abiding" is subjective.
posted by Outlawyr at 12:44 PM on December 16, 2003


Ptrin

Sourbrew: please tell me you're joking.

We'd like to do a visual inspection and swab of your 15-year-old daughter's vagina every day at 4:00 pm for signs of rape. As long as you're a law-abiding citizen, and haven't been raping your daughter, what good argument do you really have against it?


That's so far off topic that it probably does not warrant a discussion, but I was never implying that i wanted a 1984 style government. I do however think that stricter controls over internet authoring do have some benefits in terms of commerce. I have friends who have been screwed by fake sellers on ebay, although it was mostly their own negligence.


mrgrimm

if you assume that you are a law abiding citizen what good argument do you really have against it

you're assuming that it's OK for my ISP/bank/landlord/etc. to all share a collective database of information about me ...

and that there are no legitimate reasons for engaging the Internet anonymously ...

and that no one could/would use my information for nefarious purposes.

as impossible as it seems, i do worry for the future of an open Net. it just seems far too dangerous to those with power.


I think that current privacy laws extend some protection into that, although i will agree that i do not use grocery store cards to buy cigarettes and beer because i am worried that my insurance company might one day get ahold of it and up my rates. I still think though that if you started seeing a massive file of information being built about people, and used against them for discrimination the US government would react because of pressure on congress and extend some protection. Do i think this should be done now, yes. How long will it take? Probably 20 years.


yesster

...if you assume that you are a law abiding citizen what good argument do you really have against it.

Uh, primarily that it serves no legitimate interest of a government, under the jurisdiction of the US Constitution.

If that's not a good enough argument, then there's no America to defend.


America has been in the business of listening to your phone calls, e-mails, and web postings for years, Eschelon. I don't know many people who have been arrested for looking at freaky porn, or really anything else. In fact i only know one person who has ever gotten in any kind of computer trouble, and that was when he as a teenager took a computer in to have it fixed and it had some files like 17yr old girl. The computer people called the FBI. That seems like its a system working. I know that there are a lot of people who scream about our erosion of civil liberties. Hell i hate the patriot act more than just about anything.

That said i haven't seen a real change in the way people are handled by the government, and i have enough faith that if such changes started the people of the US would contact their representatives and demand change. That might be unfounded faith, but if I can't believe in that why do i live here anyway?

Perhaps the scariest thing about this, and this is something that no one has even mentioned. Is that a system like this would destroy the Internet's ability to infringe on copyrights, i think that would be horrible. P2P networks are changing the way we deal with information, and forcing society to rethink the right of an artist to profit off of something which for them should essentially be a labor of love.

I am much more worried about that, than i am about the government knowing that on thursday's i like to drink a couple of beers and watch some idiot box, while relaxing on my couch.
posted by sourbrew at 12:48 PM on December 16, 2003


Outlawyr

...if you assume that you are a law abiding citizen what good argument do you really have against it."

By the same logic why not let the government tap your phone. If you have nothing to hide, whats wrong with them listening to every word you say?

Also, "law abiding" is subjective.


See above comment concerning Eschelon
posted by sourbrew at 12:49 PM on December 16, 2003


The existance of which the US government denies, by the way, because it is, you know, wildly illegal.
posted by Ptrin at 1:07 PM on December 16, 2003


account for every penny.
ya, right.
posted by clavdivs at 1:12 PM on December 16, 2003


yesster: All one needs to do is make it illegal to access a network (or the physical lines of a network via phone or cable) without authentication. Its probably illegal now in some regards (no free cable or phone service), but would just need to be tightened up. How would you get around the routers the phone companies/their inheritors set up? Given the way IP and property laws are going in the US I give it 3-5 years tops.

Just asking...
posted by infowar at 1:16 PM on December 16, 2003


Ptrin

The existence of which the US government denies, by the way, because it is, you know, wildly illegal.


Still the point holds that they already do this, and none of us will be arrested for talking about it, or for doing other nefarious things online. Frankly its not worth their time, and it would detract from their ability to use it pursue real criminals.
posted by sourbrew at 1:16 PM on December 16, 2003


Sourbrew, are you really using the existence of Echelon as evidence of why we shouldn't worry about the government snooping on us?

My mind. It boggles.

Echelon isn't hurting us right now (overtly, at any rate) because it's illegal. Make similar systems legal and this restriction disappears. That's not a sunny thought, and it's just one of the bad possibilities here.
posted by amery at 1:55 PM on December 16, 2003


"The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it," John Gilmore famously said. And it's true. In the long run, Internet radio will succeed. Instant messaging systems will interoperate. Dumb companies will get smart or die. Stupid laws will be killed or replaced. But then, as John Maynard Keynes also famously said, "In the long run, we're all dead." - From World of Ends, which is interesting reading.
posted by tirade at 1:59 PM on December 16, 2003


infowar - making it illegal is one thing, actually managing to reliably enforce it is another. I could point to prohibition or the drug war to illustrate this, but a better example would be speeding - illegal, but most do it.

The Internet itself would not have to be accessed without authorization. Alternative systems using wireless computing, old fashioned BBS and phone connections could be used. Digital certificifates could be cracked and or faked - in fact a virus that used such a fake certificate to spread and then destroy legitimate certificates would cause chaos in this proposed system. Having a centrally determined means of control and authentication would not make the Internet more secure, but less. Instead of hacking tons of different systems, all you'd have to do is hack the scheme all of them use. And if Microsoft's writing it, I doubt it'll be hard at all.

This could all be made illegal, if it hasn't been done already, but then software piracy/cracking and copyrighted file trading are illegal, and it's been happening on a large scale for many years.

It won't work.
posted by pyramid termite at 2:24 PM on December 16, 2003


Isn't it possible that we could essentially create our own alternative 'net, ala BBS's?

I've been wondering that lately, trying to imagine how one would construct a global user-built peer-to-peer network with no backbones and no central domain name or address registry. It's not too hard to imagine building such a thing in a city using "WiFi" hardware, but the regional links are a bit tricky, and I have no idea how you'd get across the various oceans. In any case, the various peer-to-peer filesharing services have demonstrated that a self-organizing network is possible, and it seems like extending simple file sharing to support applications like email and the web should be possible.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:42 PM on December 16, 2003


How many sattelites would it take to provide coverage around the world?
posted by sourbrew at 4:07 PM on December 16, 2003


An Apple looks better and better every day.

Actually, everyting in this article aside, I don't think I'll ever own another PC after this one dies.
posted by tomorama at 5:38 PM on December 16, 2003


Alternative systems using wireless computing, old fashioned BBS and phone connections could be used.

Don't be so sure. It should be relatively trivial to program Echelon to disinguish a modem sound from a voice sound, if this has not already been done. Since you're using phones, both ends have phone numbers, which can then be extracted and reverse directoried. There's no reason why unauthorized access to a Shadownet shouldn't end up with the local police knocking on your door in five to ten minutes.
posted by Ptrin at 5:57 PM on December 16, 2003


Why is porn lumped in with fraud?

Well, porn *is* fraud. Whether you see it asa fraud on the level of recreational fiction or something more insidious usually depends on what psychological or spiritual values you see connected with sex.

But at any rate, it's simply something that the authorities (and surely authoritarians) see as undesireable, and for that reason, you can expect an authoritarian network to marginalize it.
posted by namespan at 6:04 PM on December 16, 2003


tomorama - believe me ( and use only Macs ), Apple's beahvior would quickly become similar to that of Microsoft's - I suspect - if Apple gained the same amount of market share.

Linux.
posted by troutfishing at 7:38 PM on December 16, 2003


PT: 100% compliance doesn't mean it isn't successful.
posted by infowar at 8:05 PM on December 16, 2003


Don't be so sure. It should be relatively trivial to program Echelon to distinguish a modem sound from a voice sound, if this has not already been done.

That's why this theoretical alternate network must be encrypted end to end with the strongest crypto allowed under the law. Even then it is probably possible to snoop but it would require enormous amounts of processor time to break the encryption. Therefore encouraging the would be snoops to focus only on the ones committing suspect criminal acts and not monitoring everyone.
posted by entropy at 8:50 PM on December 16, 2003


the strongest crypto allowed under the law
WTF?! Think about that for a second, and you will realize that you might as well not use crypto if that's your policy.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:16 PM on December 16, 2003


Entropy: that's the point, though -- if someone says, "This is the non-anonymous Intarweb®, take it or leave it," then nothing's to stop them from banning all non-voice communications over standard telephone networks. After all, if you assume that you are a law abiding citizen what good argument do you really have against it?
posted by Ptrin at 9:50 PM on December 16, 2003


Yesster says so much so right, all I can do is Salute.
posted by Goofyy at 6:21 AM on December 17, 2003


That said i haven't seen a real change in the way people are handled by the government

Pregnant women manhandled by airport security screeners? People kicked off planes because of their skin color/name? US citizens held by the government without charges? Guan-fucking-tanamo?

/Will not use any version of windows over 2k, although the thought of microsoft making "tamperproof" products is quite amusing ...
posted by magullo at 7:23 AM on December 17, 2003


A labour of love, huh?
Perhaps the scariest thing about this, and this is something that no one has even mentioned. Is that a system like this would destroy the Internet's ability to infringe on copyrights, i think that would be horrible. P2P networks are changing the way we deal with information, and forcing society to rethink the right of an artist to profit off of something which for them should essentially be a labor of love.

I am much more worried about that, than i am about the government knowing that on thursday's i like to drink a couple of beers and watch some idiot box, while relaxing on my couch.
Posted by sourbrew


I’ve heard this argument a lot and this time I have to ask: why do so many people take for granted that artists – and artists only – should work for love? What about the surgeon that saved your parents’ lives? Why can’t he work for love? So what if he can’t support himself working for free – he could have a day job and operate on people in his spare time, just out of love for medicine, couldn’t he? Would you ever try to ask your landlord or your grocer to give you what you want without payment? And what about yourself? Would you mind if someone stole your work, whatever you may do, without the slightest intention of paying for it?
posted by Termite at 11:06 AM on December 17, 2003


why do so many people take for granted that artists – and artists only – should work for love?

Probably because artists do, in fact, work for love. Someone who wants to create art will find the time and means to do so. If they can accomplish that by convincing someone to pay them for what they've done, great! That leaves them more time to make their art. But if they can't, they'll work a day job or find some commercial approximation of whatever it is they want to do. Art is a vocation, not a career. Thus has it been for all history, and thus shall it continue to be as long as money rules the world.

Would you mind if someone stole your work, whatever you may do, without the slightest intention of paying for it?

You are mixing two different concepts. If I take what I want from the grocer without paying for it, the grocer no longer has whatever I took away. They have lost something real: the actual merchandise I took away from the store, and the money they spent buying it. But if I make a copy of someone's music, the musician loses nothing but the potential income they might have received had I bought the original album instead. If I truly have not "the slightest intention of paying for it", then that potential income is zero. All they have lost is control.

It's a very similar situation in my own line of work. I write software, and there are plenty of people who crack our serial number scheme and use the product for free. This doesn't bother me very much because most of them can't afford or wouldn't bother to pay for a licensed copy. We make a good product: most people who use it would rather pay for it and support our continued development work than fuss around trying to crack it.

As far as music sharing goes, I know several musicians who would disagree, but I'd be thrilled if people started copying MP3 versions of my songs all over the 'net. I can't afford to buy that kind of publicity. (Of course it might help if I actually had a CD for sale, or if I played concerts, or otherwise provided some product or service people could pay me for...)
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:36 PM on December 17, 2003


magullo

That said i haven't seen a real change in the way people are handled by the government

Pregnant women manhandled by airport security screeners? People kicked off planes because of their skin color/name? US citizens held by the government without charges? Guan-fucking-tanamo?

/Will not use any version of windows over 2k, although the thought of microsoft making "tamperproof" products is quite amusing ...


Honestly, we have done that when ever there has been a perceived threat to national security. Internment camps during world war II, McCarthysim. It is nothing new, and like i said the people reacted, although to a certain extent it was slow, i applaud all of you for reacting now, for perceiving a threat, but it will take a large portion of a population being stomped on for any change to be affected.
posted by sourbrew at 6:28 PM on December 17, 2003


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