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<nettime> John Naughton: Edward Snowden's not the story. The fate of the

----- Forwarded message from Patrice Riemens <[email protected]> -----

Date: Sun, 28 Jul 2013 09:47:11 +0200
From: Patrice Riemens <[email protected]>
To: [email protected]
Subject: <nettime> John Naughton: Edward Snowden's not the story. The fate of the
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original to:

Edward Snowden's not the story. The fate of the internet is
John Naughton
The Observer, Sunday 28 July 2013

The press has lost the plot over the Snowden revelations. The fact is that
the net is finished as a global network and that US firms' cloud services
cannot be trusted

Repeat after me: Edward Snowden is not the story. The story is what he has
revealed about the hidden wiring of our networked world. This insight
seems to have escaped most of the world's mainstream media, for reasons
that escape me but would not have surprised Evelyn Waugh, whose contempt
for journalists was one of his few endearing characteristics. The obvious
explanations are: incorrigible ignorance; the imperative to personalise
stories; or gullibility in swallowing US government spin, which brands
Snowden as a spy rather than a whistleblower.

In a way, it doesn't matter why the media lost the scent. What matters is
that they did. So as a public service, let us summarise what Snowden has
achieved thus far.

Without him, we would not know how the National Security Agency (NSA) had
been able to access the emails, Facebook accounts and videos of citizens
across the world; or how it had secretly acquired the phone records of
millions of Americans; or how, through a secret court, it has been able to
bend nine US internet companies to its demands for access to their users'

Similarly, without Snowden, we would not be debating whether the US
government should have turned surveillance into a huge, privatised
business, offering data-mining contracts to private contractors such as
Booz Allen Hamilton and, in the process, high-level security clearance to
thousands of people who shouldn't have it. Nor would there be -- finally --
a serious debate between Europe (excluding the UK, which in these matters
is just an overseas franchise of the US) and the United States about where
the proper balance between freedom and security lies.

These are pretty significant outcomes and they're just the first-order
consequences of Snowden's activities. As far as most of our mass media are
concerned, though, they have gone largely unremarked. Instead, we have
been fed a constant stream of journalistic pap -- speculation about
Snowden's travel plans, asylum requests, state of mind, physical
appearance, etc. The "human interest" angle has trumped the real story,
which is what the NSA revelations tell us about how our networked world
actually works and the direction in which it is heading.

As an antidote, here are some of the things we should be thinking about as
a result of what we have learned so far.

The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are
numbered. It was always a possibility that the system would eventually be
Balkanised, ie divided into a number of geographical or
jurisdiction-determined subnets as societies such as China, Russia, Iran
and other Islamic states decided that they needed to control how their
citizens communicated. Now, Balkanisation is a certainty.

Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become _very_
contentious. Given what we now know about how the US and its satraps have
been abusing their privileged position in the global infrastructure, the
idea that the western powers can be allowed to continue to control it has
become untenable.

Third, as Evgeny Morozov has pointed out, the Obama administration's
"internet freedom agenda" has been exposed as patronising cant. "Today,"
he writes, "the rhetoric of the 'internet freedom agenda' looks as
trustworthy as George Bush's 'freedom agenda' after Abu Ghraib."

That's all at nation-state level. But the Snowden revelations also have
implications for you and me.

They tell us, for example, that no US-based internet company can be
trusted to protect our privacy or data. The fact is that Google, Facebook,
Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all integral components of the US
cyber-surveillance system. Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their
"cloud" services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from
illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA.
That means that if you're thinking of outsourcing your troublesome IT
operations to, say, Google or Microsoft, then think again.

And if you think that that sounds like the paranoid fantasising of a
newspaper columnist, then consider what Neelie Kroes, vice-president of
the European Commission, had to say on the matter recently. "If businesses
or governments think they might be spied on," she said, "they will have
less reason to trust the cloud, and it will be cloud providers who
ultimately miss out. Why would you pay someone else to hold your
commercial or other secrets, if you suspect or know they are being shared
against your wishes? Front or back door -- it doesn't matter -- any smart
person doesn't want the information shared at all. Customers will act
rationally and providers will miss out on a great opportunity."

Spot on. So when your chief information officer proposes to use the Amazon
or Google cloud as a data-store for your company's confidential documents,
tell him where to file the proposal. In the shredder.

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