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<nettime> GeoIP is a threat to democracy
Nicolas Bourbaki on Fri, 11 Jul 2014 23:12:11 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> GeoIP is a threat to democracy


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It seemed logical that old-world media companies would want to restrict
access to content on the Internet. GeoIP was then used to induce
distribution barriers analogous to those found offline so that existing
models of rent extraction could survive. And while this is something
most of us would be fine with leaving to the invisible hand of the
market we can not take the same stance when governments start to use
these measures to dictate who is a citizen, and who is not, and who is
provided civil liberties and who is not. This is what the XKeyscore
rules made clear was happening and will continue to happen in the future.

The internet standards and governing bodies cannot relinquish themselves
of political responsibility any longer. The structure of a protocol will
dictate our behavior and in this world there is no such thing as an
agnostic protocol. The term "neutrality" is false. In the context of
service providers battling with media providers over who gets a larger
share of rent from consumers, "neutrality" may be the agreed upon term
but the policies that result from this debate will have real impact on
our behavior, the ethics of the protocol, and our liberties.

Once a neutral protocol is understood as an oxymoron standards bodies
with charters claiming to serve the betterment of all nations,
corporations and consumers should be clearly seen for what they are: a
new Tower of Babel. Those of us still placing stones one on top of the
other within these institutions should take a moment to look at our work
and ask what are we actually doing.

In 2010 the DHS went against their own charter and hijacked ICANN's to
take down hundreds of domains for unclear copyright claims. Why is ICANN
still relevant when decentralized models could easily replace them when
supported by either the EU, Google or Firefox? And when the NSA can with
absolutely no oversight claim that the location of an IP in some table
dictates who gets civil liberties, why have we not replaced BGP or at
least begun to build parallel models within universities or like minded
corporations that could support reverse tunnels through collision free
identities similar to Tor's onion service handles?

The number of protocols that falsely advertised as agnostic are many. We
should be ashamed that it took such a scandal as pervasive western
surveillance to awaken us to this falsehood when so many, living under
more hostel regimes, have lived with the tools of oppression we built
into these protocols from the very start.

If we cannot convince our institutions to take fixing these falsehoods
seriously by considering civil liberties within the protocol, and
overcome the obstacles of legacy systems, and work for support for
parallel models, than at least we can hasten the demise of this Babel to
start anew. Indeed this may sadden optimists such as Larry Page and
others that are waiting for technology to become our messiah. But as
Benjamin Franklin would say, those who would trade liberated networks
for efficient networks deserve neither.


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