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Roger Clarke's 'Internet Technology Issues'

Issues Arising in Current and Emergent Internet Technologies

Roger Clarke **

Invited Presentation to Internet MasterClass '04, at the Centre for Critical & Cultural Studies (CCCS), University of Queensland, 6 December 2004

Version of 4 December 2004

© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 2004

Available under an AEShareNet Free
for Education licence

This document is at

The slide-sets are available in PowerPoint 4, numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; and in PowerPoint 98, numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5


This session reviews recent developments and current promises in Internet technologies, and examines their impacts and second-order implications. The clusters of ideas addressed are:

Internet-Connected Devices

The first cluster of technological development is concerned with the proliferation of devices that are connected to the Internet. The Internet was conceived for moderate numbers of stationary devices. It is being applied (with some difficulty) to mobile, handheld devices. It is also being touted for 'appliances' in the sense of 'white goods' (with refrigerators making a promotional splash), and for RFID chips (smart cards re-born small), and the idea will be in due course be transferred to so-called 'smart dust'. The augmentation of the longstanding IPv4 protocol with IPv6, and perhaps its gradual replacement, are needed to support such developments.

Suggested Pre-Reading:

Clarke R. (2003) 'Wireless Transmission and Mobile Technologies' Revised Working Paper, 18 October 2003, at (sections 1-3)

Applications for Collaboration and Subversion

There are now vast numbers of devices 'around the edge' of the Internet that have very substantial processing capacity and storage, and have high-capacity connections. During the late 1990s, initiatives were launched to co-ordinate these resources into collaboratories. A number of these projects have achieved fruition, and it is now feasible for large-scale services to be orchestrated by organisations that have no large central processor.

One family of projects refers to itself as 'grid computing'. This focusses on the utilisation of spare processor cycles around the world, in order to perform compute-rich tasks such as numerical modelling and brute-force search of large (mathematical) spaces. These collaborations are subversive of the efforts of supercomputer manufacturers to sell their products to universities, research organisations.

The other family of projects is referred to as 'peer to peer' (P2P). P2P focusses on the sharing of files of various kinds, and offers much-reduced dependence on individual devices and sub-networks, improved resilience, much-improved scalability, much-improved ability to service highly-peaked demand, and resistance to denial of service attacks. A very large proportion of the massive traffic on P2P networks is audio of music that is subject to the protection of copyright law. One kind of 'denial of service' attack that P2P is proving highly resistant to is nastygrams from lawyers acting on behalf of the five companies that make up most of the music recording industry.

Suggested Pre-Reading:

Clarke R. (2004) 'Peer-to-Peer (P2P) - An Overview' October 2004, at

Internet Governance - by whom, and for whom?

The Australian Internet is no longer dependent on the personal efforts of Robert Elz and Geoff Huston, and the coordinative work needed to sustain the Internet as a whole was too large for Jon Postel even before his untimely demise. In 1998, the U.S. government orchestrated the establishment of a Californian not-for-profit corporation as the "technical coordination body for the Internet's name and numbering systems".

There are many detractors of ICANN's constitution, and of its performance in relation to a range of matters. Corporations active in the business of the Internet are well-represented. The public (in the sense of individual users, corporate users, and people affected by its use) have little or no voice. Governments are represented, but not in a manner satisfactory to the majority of countries. A U.N.-sponsored talk-fest is in train, seeking to address the concerns of those countries. It is not clear whether it will address the public interest, or restrict its focus to the interests of governments.

Suggested Pre-Reading:

Clarke R. (2002) 'Overview of Internet Governance' Resource, 14 August 2002, at

Clarke R. (2004) 'ICANN and the Public Interest' Resource, November 2004 (forthcoming)

Kummer M. (2004) 'The Debate on Internet Governance: What's at Stake?' Address by a WSIS/WGIG Executive to an event of the Oxford Internet Institute / Internet Society UK, London, 24 September 2004, at

Dyson E. (2004) 'Dear diary - Internet governance' Weblog entry, September 29, 2004, at

Counter-Attacks by the Powerful

The Internet is subversive, and tends to frustrate the objectives of the powerful. So it's no suprise that moves are afoot to adapt not just governance structures and processes, but also technologies. This is proceeding on several fronts.

Large corporations whose profits depend on revenue generated from copyright works have lobbied successfully for a succession of enhancements to copyright law. They have also invested a great deal of effort in wrapping the works in which they own copyright in layers of digital protection. These technologies are commonly referred to as 'Digital Rights Management' (DRM).

Powerful corporations and government agencies share a desire to exercise control over the actions of individuals and groups who work against their interests. There is a concerted effort to increase the ease with which devices are able to be tracked, and with which people can be associated with devices and with transactions.

There are likely to be a number of attempts in coming years to re-engineer the Internet from the ground up. There are many reasons for this, not least the considerable changes in underlying telecommunications technologies, processor technologies and applications that have arisen since the early 1970s. Governments and some corporations will have an interest in ensuring that their interests are better served, and will doubtless use the security imperative as the excuse for traceability and trapdoors with great repressive potential. One major source of this drive is the U.S. defence community.

Suggested Pre-Reading:

Clarke R. (2001) 'Paradise Gained, Paradise Re-lost: How the Internet is being Changed from a Means of Liberation to a Tool of Authoritarianism' Mots Pluriels 18, August 2001, at (section 3)

Clarke R. & Nees S. (2000) 'Technological Protections for Digital Copyright Objects' Proc. ECIS 2000 Conf., Vienna, 3-5 July 2000, pp. 745-752, at

Clarke R. (1999) 'Person-Location and Person-Tracking: Technologies, Risks and Policy Implications' Proc. 21st International Conf. Privacy and Personal Data Protection, Hong Kong, September 1999, at (sections 1-4)

Cringely R.X. (2001) 'The Death of TCP/IP: Why the Age of Internet Innocence is Over', at

NYT (2004) 'Pentagon envisioning a costly Internet for war' November 13, 2004, at

From Data to Meaning? to Knowledge??

A hypertext system is intended to enable people to navigate around a network of data. They use that inherently human possession called knowledge, to extract information from that data. Tim Berners-Lee implemented the simplest possible form of hypertext system, and called it the World Wide Web. It was successful because it was simple.

Everyone has been working hard to destroy the Web's simplicity ever since (not least, Tim Berners-Lee). Metadata was added, in the form of meta-tags inserted within each web-page, to provide descriptive data about that page and its characteristics. Fortunately that achieved only limited success, and most metadata is stored where it should be, externally to the page.

HTML was a very messily simplified form of horrendously powerful and messy SGML. It is being progressively supplanted by XML, a logically clean but nonetheless very powerful version of SGML. XML has been further developed in order to support ways of describing not only documents but also structured data, by means of so-called Data Schemas. This particular kind of complexification of the Web is taking a long time to be assimilated, but does promise a great deal.

Most recently, Tim has been trying to move the Web closer towards being what he thinks of as a knowledge-web, through a project (or perhaps crusade) called the Semantic Web. This is meant to be achieved by establishing common controlled vocabularies, thesauri and 'ontologies' (a fashionable word for taxonomies), mappings among data definitions, and structured definitions of business processes. On that basis (Tim thinks), it will at last become feasible for what some people see as the nirvana of software agents navigating and transacting act on behalf of users. Other among us are sceptical.

Suggested Pre-Reading:

Clarke R. (1992) 'Fundamentals of 'Information Systems'' Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 13 September 1992, at

The Wikipedia entry on the Semantic Web, at

Resources - Technology

Clarke R. (2004) 'Peer-to-Peer (P2P) - An Overview' October 2004, at

Clarke R. (2004) 'Origins and Nature of the Internet in Australia' January 2004, at

Clarke R. (2004) 'The Internet as a Postal Service: A Fairy Story' January 2004, at

Clarke R. (2003) 'Wireless Transmission and Mobile Technologies' Revised Working Paper, 18 October 2003, at

Clarke R. (2002) 'Overview of Internet Governance' Resource, 14 August 2002, at

Clarke R. (2001) 'Introduction to Information Security' February 2001, at

Clarke R., Dempsey G., Ooi C.N. & O'Connor R.F. (1998) 'A Primer on Internet Technology', February 1998, at

Clarke R. (1998) 'The Internet as a Postal Service: A Fairy Story', February 1998 at,

Clarke R. (1993) 'Asimov's Laws of Robotics: Implications for Information Technology' In two parts, in IEEE Computer 26,12 (December 1993) 53-61, and 27,1 (January 1994) 57-66, at

Resources - Copyright Battles

Clarke R. (2002) 'Digital Property Rights vs. Human Rights: Desperate Publishing Houses Are Demanding A New Dark Ages' Invited Presentation to the A.C.S. (S.A.) Conference on Ubiquitous Computing: Trends, Tricks And Traps , Adelaide, 31 October - 1 November 2002, at, plus slide-set

Clarke R. (2001) 'Paradise Gained, Paradise Re-lost: How the Internet is being Changed from a Means of Liberation to a Tool of Authoritarianism' Mots Pluriels 18, August 2001, at

Clarke R. (2000) 'Technological Protections for Digital Copyright Objects' Proc. ECIS 2000 Conf., Vienna, 3-5 July 2000, pp. 745-752, at, with the PowerPoint slide presentation at (with Stephen Nees)

Clarke R. (1999) 'Freedom of Information? The Internet as Harbinger of the New Dark Ages', Proc. Conf. 'Freedom of Information and the Right to Know', Melbourne, 19-20 August 1999. Republished in First Monday 4, 11 (November 1999), at, at

Resources - Identity, Tracking and Surveillance

Clarke R. (2004) 'Identity Management: The Technologies; Their Business Value; Their Problems; Their Prospects' March 2004, contents and ordering at

Clarke R. (2001) 'Authentication: A Sufficiently Rich Model to Enable e-Business' Review Draft of 26 December 2001, at

Clarke R. (2001) 'While You Were Sleeping ... Surveillance Technologies Arrived', Forthcoming in Australian Quarterly 73, 1 (January-February 2001), at

Clarke R. (1999) 'Relevant Characteristics of Person-Location and Person-Tracking Technologies', September 1999, at

Clarke R. (1999) 'Person-Location and Person-Tracking: Technologies, Risks and Policy Implications' Proc. 21st International Conf. Privacy and Personal Data Protection, Hong Kong, September 1999, at

Clarke R. (1999) 'Anonymous, Pseudonymous and Identified Transactions: The Spectrum of Choice', Proc. IFIP User Identification & Privacy Protection Conference, Stockholm, June 1999, at

Resources - Cyberculture

Clarke R. (2000) '"Information Wants to be Free"', 24 February 2000, at

Clarke R. (1999) 'Ethics and the Internet: The Cyberspace Behaviour of People, Communities and Organisations' Proc. 6th Annual Conf. Aust. Association for Professional and Applied Ethics, Canberra, 2 October 1999. Revised version published in Bus. & Prof'l Ethics J. 18, 3&4 (1999) 153-167, at

Clarke R. (1997) 'Encouraging Cyberculture', CAUSE in Australasia '97, Melbourne (March 1997), at

Clarke R. (1996) 'CyberCulture: Towards the Analysis That Internet Participants Need', 15 July 1996, at

Clarke R. (1995) 'Information Technology & Cyberspace: Their Impact on Rights and Liberties' Invited Presentation to the 'New Rights' Seminar Series, Victorian Council for Civil Liberties, Melbourne, 13 September 1995, at

Clarke R. (1995) `Netethiquette: Mini Case Studies of Dysfunctional Human Behaviour on the Net', April 1995, at

Resources - Policy Issues

Clarke R. (2004) 'The Internet and Democracy: Has Hong Kong Left It Too Late??' September 2004, at

Clarke R. (2004) 'The Internet and Democracy' May 2004, at

Clarke R. (2002) 'Defamation on the Web: Gutnick v. Dow Jones' Notes, 29 June 2002, at

Clarke R. (2002) 'e-Consent: A Critical Element of Trust in e-Business' Proc. 15th Bled Electronic Commerce Conference, Bled, Slovenia, 17-19 June 2002, at, plus PowerPoint slides

Clarke R. (2001) 'Defamation on the Web' 2 October 2001, at

Clarke R. (2001) 'The Feasibility of Regulating Gambling on the Internet' Managerial and Decision Economics 22 (2001) 125-132, at (with Gillian Dempsey)

Clarke R. (1999) 'Internet Issues - Bigger Than Y2K, Much More Pressing Than a Constitutional Preamble', presentation to staff of the Australian Intellectual Property Office, March 1999, at

Clarke R. (1998) 'Information Privacy On the Internet: Cyberspace Invades Personal Space' Telecommunication Journal of Australia 48, 2 (May/June 1998), at

Clarke R. (1998) 'The Technical Feasibility of Regulating Gambling on the Internet', Proc. Conf. Gambling, Technology & Society, 7 - 8 May 1998, at (with Gillian Dempsey, Ooi Chuin Nee and Robert F. O'Connor)

Clarke R. (1994) 'The Australian Information Infrastructure: Economic and Policy Issues' November 1994, 100 pp., at

Clarke R. (1994) 'The Information Age As Threat' Address to a Symposium on 'Public Access to Networked Information', National Scholarly Communications Forum, Canberra, 13 October 1994, at

Clarke R. (1994) 'Information Technology: Weapon of Authoritarianism or Tool of Democracy?' Proc. World Congress, Int'l Fed. of Info. Processing, Hamburg, September 1994. At

Clarke R. (1994) 'Information Infrastructure Policy Issues' Policy 10,3 (Spring 1994), at

Clarke R. (1994) 'Vision for a Networked Nation: The Public Interest in Network Services' Proc. Conf. Int'l Telecommunications Soc., Sydney, July 1994 (with T. Worthington), at

Clarke R. (1994) 'The Digital Persona and Its Application to Data Surveillance' The Information Society 10,2 (June 1994). At

Clarke R. (1992) 'Fundamentals of 'Information Systems'' Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 13 September 1992, at

Author Affiliations

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in the E-Commerce Programme at the University of Hong Kong, Visiting Professor in the Baker & McKenzie Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre at the University of N.S.W., and Visiting Fellow in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University.

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Created: 9 November 2004 - Last Amended: 4 December 2004 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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