Internet Freedom

In Zittrain’s book, “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It” the author looks at the internet from a global perspective.  The chapter I enjoyed reading that gave startling clarity as to where the internet could be headed was chapter five on internet enforcement.  Many people have ideas on how the internet could be used to filter or screen certain bad users and maybe even stop them from particular usages, but Zittrain brings evidence on how deadly this path could turn out. 

 He first describes how tethered  applications could make getting on the internet and using it much easier for users, but these tethered apps come with a downside.  Many companies started with applications they were not tethered allowing users to modify what they bought, so the technology was still controlled by the user.  These tethered apps are never modify by users by modified by the company remotely.  Zittrain brought up theexample of the TiVo machine, I know I love my dearly-never miss a show now.  I had no idea the TiVo company was in court against the dishcompany for them suing TiVo in the first place.  What the law suit boiled down to was the dishcompany felt TiVo used applications that infringed on their patent rights.  What it was really about is they wanted a piece of TiVo’s money is what I am more inclined to believe.  TiVo won but they could remotely remove themselves from the dish.  This horrified me!  That while I thought my TiVo was saving Glee it could be remotely turned off.  Zittrain with this simples example proved how powerful tethered apps could be.  This can also happen with the iphone as Zittrain explained.  “TiVo v. EchoStar and PlayMedia v. AOL broach the strange and troubling issues that arise from the curious technological hybrids that increasingly populate the digital world. These hybrids mate the simplicity and reliability of television-like appliances with the privileged power of the vendor to reprogram those appliances over a network”(19).

What amazes me is that we pay for these boxes or phones but we actually have no control how they are programed or modified.  The parent company can remove or destroy any individual programs that we have set.  What was even more astonishing was countries like China and North Korea how they have limited or spied upon people using these devices. “Chinese regulators have used their extensive control over ISPs’ routing of data packets to steer users away from undesirable Web sites by simply causing the Web pages to fail to load in the course of normal surfing” (26).  I would go to another web site if a website wouldn’t open with out ever thinking it was blocked.  These governments also filter out any words they do not like or control google so it cannot show content the government disapproves of.

What was hilarious is that efforts to control with a filter do backfire as with our government which tried to allow Iranian people access to the internet but they wanted to block any porn, but they instead blocked much more then that. “Web sites maintained by commercial filtering programs are consistently overbroad, erroneously placing Web sites into categories to which they do not belong.(62) For example, when the U.S. government sponsored a service to assist Iranians in overcoming Internet filtering imposed by the Iranian government, the U.S.-sponsored service in turn sought to filter out pornographic sites so that Iranians would not use the circumvention service to obtain pornography. The service filtered any site with “ass” in its domain name—including, the U.S. Department of State’s online portal for its own overseas missions”(63).  So instead of helping these people use the internet we blocked them as badly as their own government.  What is nice to know is that many governments are trying to use the tethered systems to control people but the internet is indeed a jungle to them as well.

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