Is het einde van onze droom van een open en vrij Internet in zicht?

Advocate Jennifer Granick mocht dit jaar de keynote leveren voor de Amerikaanse Black Hat 2015 conferentie. Ze hield er een ongemeen boeiende, maar niet echt hoopgevende uiteenzetting over de toekomst van het internet. Die ziet er volgens haar alles behalve rooskleurig uit. Als de evolutie zich voortzet zoals ze zich vandaag aandient, dan zal er binnen twintig jaar zo goed als geen sprake meer zijn van een vrij en open internet.

Twenty years from now,

  • You won’t necessarily know anything about the decisions that affect your rights, like whether you get a loan, a job, or if a car runs over you. Things will get decided by data-crunching computer algorithms and no human will really be able to understand why.
  • The Internet will become a lot more like TV and a lot less like the global conversation we envisioned 20 years ago.
  • Rather than being overturned, existing power structures will be reinforced and replicated, and this will be particularly true for security.
  • Internet technology design increasingly facilitates rather than defeats censorship and control.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But to change course, we need to ask some hard questions and make some difficult decisions.

What does it mean for companies to know everything about us, and for computer algorithms to make life and death decisions? Should we worry more about another terrorist attack in New York, or the ability of journalists and human rights workers around the world to keep working? How much free speech does a free society really need? How can we stop being afraid and start being sensible about risk? (…) What is the future of the Dream of Internet Freedom?

Het zijn lastige vragen waarop ook Granick niet altijd een antwoord heeft. Maar ze weigert zich verloren te geven.

The future for freedom and openness appears to be far bleaker than we had hoped for 20 years ago. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let me describe another future where the Internet Dream lives and thrives.

  • We start to think globally. We need to deter another terrorist attack in New York, but we can’t ignore the impact our decisions have on journalists and human rights workers around the world. We strongly value both.
  • We build in decentralization where possible: Power to the People. And strong end to end encryption can start to right the imbalance between tech, law and human rights.
  • We realize the government has no role in dictating communications technology design.
  • We start being afraid of the right things and stop being driven by irrational fear. We reform the CFAA, the DMCA, the Patriot Act and foreign surveillance law. We stop being so sensitive about speech and we let noxious bullshit air out. If a thousand flowers bloom, the vast majority of them will be beautiful.

Today we’ve reached an inflection point. If we change paths, it is still possible that the Dream of Internet Freedom can become true. But if we don’t, it won’t. The Internet will continue to evolve into a slick, stiff, controlled and closed thing. And that dream I have  [of a free and open internet]  will be dead. If so, we need to think about creating the technology for the next lifecycle of the revolution. In the next 20 years we need to get ready to smash the Internet apart and build something new and better.

De keynote van Jennifer Granick kan je hierboven bekijken, maar als je hem liever leest dan kan dat hier. Granick is directeur civil liberties aan Stanford University, werkte voor de EFF en is als advocate gespecialiseerd in internetwetgeving, gegevensbescherming en copyright. Ze verdedigde in het verleden onder meer Aaron Schwarz en verschillende bekende hackers.

En voor wie het graag in een enkele quote gevat heeft:

Like all rights and privileges, security is about power. Who gets it, who doles it out and what interests it protects. If the internet revolution can successfully liberate people from traditional power structures – totalitarianism, bias, poverty – like we’ve hoped, that’ll be awesome. But at this inflection point, there are signs that surveillance, censorship and entrenched powers may successfully co-opt the internet. It’s up to us.

Nogmaals? It’s up to us …