In response to The End of the Internet Dream?

Jennifer Stisa Granick’s keynote address is a comprehensive and illuminating account of the past, present, and troubling future of “internet freedom.” It also raises uncomfortable questions for government officials, corporate leaders, and hackers. Let’s look at a few of them, in each category. The overarching concern may be: can we step back from our positions as advocates, and talk openly about what an ideal balance of power and freedom, surveillance and privacy, may look like?

1) Government

JSG observes that security has to be a shared responsibility of government, private firms, and users. But she also notes that each is prone to some overreach. She frankly states, “The U.S. Government talks about security as “cyber”. When I hear “cyber” I hear shorthand for military domination of the Internet.” I agree that US “military domination” of a global network is problematic, as a normative matter. Perhaps thinking about what a sounder military role looked like in the past, largely in “real space,” may help guide us into the future of armed forces on the ‘net.

What does military non-domination look like? We see it in well-ordered states, where the military is always under civilian control. What does “civilian control” of a cybersecurity force look like? Do people outside it get to understand the technical details of its defensive and offensive activities? To what extent do the latter hinge on the former, or vice versa?

I think that independent, third party review of such issues is critical, because otherwise we’ll just end up with ever more intense surveillance of more aspects of our life. John Mueller exposes the grubby commercial spurs leading to overblown security threats. And the ramping up of security capabilities can be self-defeating, particularly if it just provokes military rivals to sink more funds into their own countermeasures. JSG is exactly right to say that the real goal for the US should be “building security for a global network,” not dominating it or monitoring/controlling all of it.

Read the full piece at Medium