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Notes for a Panel Session at Rewind Fast Forward, Sydney, 25 March 2015
Revised Version of 27 March 2015
Roger Clarke **
© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 2015
Available under an AEShareNet licence or a Creative Commons licence.
This document is at http://www.rogerclarke.com/II/RFF-15.html
The accompanying slide-set is at http://www.rogerclarke.com/II/RFF-15.pdf
As we celebrate 20 years of the Internet, we have to appreciate that the revolution is far from over. This brief presentation identifies some of the serious stress factors. The Internet as we know it in 2015 has changed a great deal from that of 2005. And future internetworking will be significantly different from the Internet of today.
The following text is aligned to the slide-set.
Did we know what we wanted when we built the Internet?
Among the things that I've done are an Australian history of the Internet and a history of the early years of the Web in Australia.
So I should have some idea of what we wanted back in 1990, right? But I was surprised how difficult it was to cast my mind back through 25 tumultuous years.
If we did know what we wanted, did we get it?
My theme here is that 'the Internet as we know it', in 2015, is under considerable stress.
I'm going to suggest that the strain is showing, and that change is coming about, some of it very uncomfortable for many players.
Like everyone else here, I'm an enthusiast for 'things Internet'.
As Secretary of the Internet Society in Australia, I'd have to be.
This slide provides a sample of the goodies that various players have definitely got from the Internet.
But what I'm going to talk about isn't the good news part.
I'm going to look at some important reality-checks.
Here are a few of the things that have come with the Internet that have upset some players.
Some of those players have a lot of muscle, and exercise it in order to bend the Internet to their world-view.
We have an eSafety Commissioner.
We have the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) hell-bent on getting the Internet under the control of governments.
We have music and movie corporations demanding corporate welfare from the public purse and subsidies from ISPs' customers.
And we have a government about to sell us out by means of the 'Trans Pacific Partnership' (PPP). Among other things, that will destroy national sovereignty, and preclude us from passing laws that regulate trans-nationals.
The Internet Society represents all Internet 'users'.
So they get a slide all to themselves.
There are many user segments, but most of them suffer grief from a range of Internet features.
Consumer rights mean little when service-providers are more powerful than governments, and locate themselves in jurisdictions of convenienc e.
So what were the sources of these problems?
There are many possible views of the Internet.
This is one simplistic view.
It represents the level of understanding of many people.
Many people confuse the Web with the Internet.
And many people are pretty vague about what's under the bonnet.
Even the participants at this event spent almost all their time on the Information Infrastructure at the bottom, and the Services at the top, and barely even mentioned the in-between layers - which is what the Internet actually is.
People who want to participate meaningfully in public policy formation - say to tackle trolls, cyber-bullying or the reticulation of child porn - need to have rather more understanding than this.
And the Web isn't what it once was.
The predecessor event to this one was run in September 2005. My contribution that day was to a panel on B2C eCommerce. Remember that?
O'Reilly published the first useful document on Web 2.0 a fortnight after that event. So Web 2.0 was barely mentioned that day.
My concluding comments were: "We'll still see too many e-marketers projecting at the consumer".
Since then, the Web has been extended and subverted beyond recognition.
And marketers spurned the opportunity to develop a new philosophy.
Remember 'The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business As Usual'?
'Markets are Conversations', the authors said.
Instead, marketers continue to treat consumers as prey, not partners.
The simple but effective client-pull model of Web 1.0 has been converted into a massively complex, intrusive and exploitative server-push mechanism.
Users can't and don't 'trust' organisations.
Because web-sites arrange for hordes of other sites to get their data, and to force content onto their device and into their windows.
Ontario Info Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, came up with the now much-hyped Privacy by Design notion.
But, rather than articulating PbD, the Internet industry has taken full advantage of the vulnerabilities inherent in devices and protocols.
Consumer devices are intentionally insecure.
What's been delivered is 'Insecurity by Design'.
But consumers are also customers, contractors and employees.
So their devices are allowed inside the electronic door,
and their vulnerabilities are inherited by organisations.
And that's just the service-providers and other criminals.
Then, of course, there's the little issue of governments submitting the populace to all-but uninhibited surveillance.
With the Australian government among the worst offenders.
Each of the 'Five Eyes' spies on the citizens of the other 'Five Eyes'.
Then they 'data launder' the results back to the country of origin.
And then of course there's a set of newly-minted and extended capabilities in relation to voice and data communications 'metadata'.
It's easy to laugh at the hopeless ignorance displayed by the proponents of the scheme.
It's less easy to laugh when you consider that the proposals emanate from the national security extremists who've taken over the Attorney-General's Department since 2001.
They've held a gun to the head of each successive Attorney-General for the last few years until they found one silly enough not to find an excuse not to proceed.
For the record, my more blunt comments on this topic are my personal position, and are different from those of the two civil society organisations on whose Boards I sit.
Of course, appalling behaviour by governments has the effect of reducing public trust in politicians and government agencies still further.
That in turn encourages larger numbers of individuals, corporations and associations to adopt countermeasures.
One example is the encryption of traffic end-to-end, so that interception of messages is of limited use to government snoops.
'HTTPS Everywhere' is an EFF project, out of California, but the responsibility for it rests with an Australian, Peter Eckersley.
As mentioned earlier, the Web is only one service, and http is only one protocol.
The large numbers of engineers who are the closest thing we have to an architect and a design team use the Internet Society, the IAB and IETF as their governance framework.
All three have been moving firmly in the direction of ensuring the embedment of message-encryption in all protocols, not just http.
Of course, there are many other tools and services that assist with the encryption of traffic.
And there are places on the Web that facilitate their discovery, such as PRISM-break.org
In some industries, a lot more is needed than just content obfuscation.
Whistleblowing is destroyed by the data retention provisions.
So both content and identity need protection.
The Opposition's pretence that its amendments improved the Bill was pitiful. They've yet again failed to protect the public and enforce the fundamental principles of justification, transparency, proportionality, mitigation and controls.
Any Australian media organisation that pretends to conduct investigative reporting now simply has to implement SecureDrop, or some equivalent facility.
As at a couple of weeks ago, only one Australian media outlet had implemented it. No, it wasn't Crikey (yet), but rather The Guardian.
We have to hope that the media's belated discovery of the enormous threat to democratic values that data retention represents will translate into positive action to protect whistleblowers.
Blackberry paved the way with secure business communications.
Now it looks like someone else will reap the financial benefits.
Some corporate executives and staff are involved in sensitive actiivities - such as Mergers & Acquisitions, and product launches.
They'll be increasingly operating in a 'silent world' (TM).
No, I have no financial interest in this particular company, although I do know, and have a great deal of respect for, Phil Zimmerman.
Of course there are alternatives for consumers as well.
And the Government whose left hand doesn't know what its right hand is doing has been busy promoting one such tool recently.
I'd love to talk about 'consumer-oriented social media' as an alternative to the current consumer-exploitation model - but not in a short panel presentation.
What this all leads me to conclude is that future internetworking will look less and less like 'the Internet as we knew it' during the period 2005-2015.
The protocol set that supports the Web is now badly overloaded and full of designed-in insecurities.
The carrier protocols are being attacked by governments, and variants and alternatives are inevitable.
And of course many more people and organisations will avoid channels known to be heavily-monitored.
They will utilitise the various forms of 'Citizen's Band' internetworking like Mesh architectures cross-linking geographically adjacent Wifi networks.
The 'Fast Forward' slogan will be just as applicable to the third event in this series in 2025 as it is to this one.
You can rely on Distrust more than you can on Trust.
So opportunities abound for corporations that:
Whatever it was that we wanted, we haven't got it.
And the revolution still has a long way to go.
Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in Cyberspace Law & Policy at the University of N.S.W., and a Visiting Professor in the Computer Science at the Australian National University.
He is also Secretary of the Internet Society of Australia.
The content and infrastructure for these community service pages are provided by Roger Clarke through his consultancy company, Xamax.
From the site's beginnings in August 1994 until February 2009, the infrastructure was provided by the Australian National University. During that time, the site accumulated close to 30 million hits. It passed 65 million in early 2021.
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Created: 24 March 2015 - Last Amended: 27 March 2015 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
This document is at www.rogerclarke.com/II/RFF-15.html