Battle For The Internet Looms

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With the perpetually refreshed glut of information available on the Web, it’s rare to find a thoroughly researched, thoughtful and meaningful piece on – of all things – the State of The Internet. In the May issue of Vanity Fair, contributing editor Michael Joseph Gross writes a captivating article, “World War 3.0,” that is both rich with history and chilling in his description of the challenges facing a tough-to-tame digital behemoth.

In this lengthy (by Web standards, anyway) piece leading up to a December conference in Dubai where the world will meet to discuss and renegotiate a UN treaty – International Telecommunications Regulations – as it relates to the Internet, Gross pens a somber outlook on where things are headed with the Web. Crisis, Gross asserts, is in store for the Internet and its users because of four main issues:

Sovereignty – the Internet was created and has developed specifically to exist outside or above the worldly territories we’ve mapped out

Piracy and Intellectual Property – the battle between freedom of information and folks wanting to protect their work and, more importantly, get paid

Privacy – the incomprehensible mass of information on the Internet and our ability to contribute and participate with relative anonymity is great for creativity and freedom, but it’s also awesome for criminals and folks who want to use your information for nefarious purposes.

Security – Code written is code hacked. It’s all just a matter of time and effort. With so much at stake and with so much money being made from the Web, how on Earth do we protect it all?

Four main issues – each extremely difficult to solve. In most cases, it’s damn near impossible to get consensus on the terms of each of these issues. You’ll have to read the article to see how Gross places this all in a context that makes the battle over the Internet one of the most important showdowns we might ever see.

The chill-factor for me comes from the last paragraph of his article – discussing the options for achieving security in such a connected world:

Aside from wealth or arcane knowledge, the only other guarantor of security will be isolation. Some people will pioneer new ways of life that minimize their involvement online. Still others will opt out altogether—to find or create a little corner of the planet where the Internet does not reach. Depending on how things go, that little corner could become a very crowded place. And you’d be surprised at how many of the best-informed people about the Internet have already started preparing for the trip.

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