How can we fight against the "1984" version of the internet?
March 30, 2010 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Since every government in the world seeks information control to remain in power. The internet will eventually be tapped, censored, crippled, and/or blocked by every country. How can we fight against this, or rather, route around it?

Is there another way besides voting against it, which from what I see is not working.

- Setting up a Darknet mesh network?
- Buying telcos -- converting them to non-profit/mutual?

Anyone knowledgeable please share your thoughts, greatly appreciated.
posted by simpleblob to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by digividal at 10:54 AM on March 30, 2010

simpleblob: Since every government in the world seeks information control to remain in power. The internet will eventually be tapped, censored, crippled, and/or blocked by every country.

I'd start with rethinking this premise.
posted by mkultra at 10:58 AM on March 30, 2010 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Owning a telco won't really help. The crucial bit of infrastructure on a global scale is the crossing boundaries between countries. These happen mostly on massive undersea fiber lines that are laid by governments and protected by navies.

Probably the best hope for a shadow internet would be massive point to point wireless connectivity combined with high grade crypto as a default. This might be very difficult to tap but even then any kind of broadcast signal can be detected by a determined (government) actor. Once detected it can also be interfered with by broadcasting noise on a the same bandwidth at higher power. Or more directly, by locating the source of broadcasts and "pulling the plug".
posted by Babblesort at 11:05 AM on March 30, 2010

Short term: encryption, stegography, etc.

Ultimately: no way to do it. You'd have to have a country that could defend its borders AND maintain an outside connection. Governments have more resources than anyone and will win this game. Playing one against another may buy you some time.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:07 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

stegography = stenography
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:08 AM on March 30, 2010

I think you mean steganography, CHT.
posted by the dief at 11:12 AM on March 30, 2010

Check out Electronic Frontier Foundation. I think they are more legal process oriented, but heck everything helps!
posted by Zoyashka at 11:13 AM on March 30, 2010

Respectfully, I suggest that your second proposition does not logically proceed from your first.
posted by dmt at 11:25 AM on March 30, 2010

I think you mean steganography, CHT.

Dammit. I knew I got it wrong, and my google-as-spell-check let me down...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:39 AM on March 30, 2010


As long as the government isn't running the exit nodes. Maybe the fact that there are several high bandwidth nodes in the Washington D.C. / Northern Virginia area with similar configurations is a mere coincidence. But I'm not a particularly big believer in coincidence. Tor itself was a project of the US Naval Research Laboratory before the EFF took it on.

I hate to be pessimistic, but the more I think about this subject, the more I think internet anonymity is impossible. I consider myself fairly savvy with computers - certainly not the greatest user in the world, but I know HTML and can use a command line. Even I had no idea (until recently) that Flash cookies existed - and while they can be used for good, I also consider them to be a huge invasion of privacy. There are so many ways to be tracked online today that I don't know if its possible for all but the top .5% of users to know how to achieve relatively uncompromisable anonymity.

That's why so many dissidents are now conducting the serious discussions offline. As Eliot Spitzer said, "Never write when you can talk. Never talk when you can nod. And never put anything in an e-mail." That's a good rule of thumb, but how long until the ubiquitous CCTV cameras and listening devices wreck the method of secret public communication, too? In the UK my understanding is that this is already close to becoming a reality.

There is a little room for optimism: In my experience, the biggest invaders of privacy are not government spooks but private corporations. The private sector violations of privacy have been particularly egregious as of late, but people seem to blindly accept them. No, you really DON'T need my social security number to turn on my cable. Credit card companies track everything you buy - and they have complex algorithms that can accurately predict your risk of default.

And don't even get me started on the bastards at ChoicePoint and the other data aggregation companies. They often work with law enforcement and government agencies who want to get around those pesky things like warrants and probable cause - you can guarantee that your data will not be safe with the likes of ChoicePoint.

There's not much you can do, aside from moving to countries with strong privacy protections (I think many of the EU states are admirable in this regard), paying for stuff with cash (the privacy-invaders hate cash and they want to do away with that, too), and sedulously restricting the amount of information you give to people. The Internet may be, unfortunately, a lost cause.

Those are my thoughts on the matter, anyway. Privacy is freedom, and it astounds me how readily most Americans are willfully giving away their privacy these days.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 12:57 PM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

Peer-to-peer wireless Meshnets. Couple that with strong cryptography, and you're set.
posted by chrisamiller at 1:54 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

From someone who knows far less about the internet than they do about Government and political science:

The ability of any modern State to do anything significant to an established international set of networks and technological protocols as well-embedded in social life and as important to the economy as the Internet is, is extremely, extremely overstated.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:30 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

This assumes that the various government will have the same idea as to what should be restricted. During the Paul Bernardo trial in Ontario, the Attorney General placed a publication ban on the case, and the other provinces did the same. However, this being the early days of the internet, it was possible to find and print out articles from American sources on usenet.

Ultimately, if Google, Microsoft, (even Nike, et al.) were to announce they would not deal with governments that limited freedoms, that would do a lot more than several million more Tor installations.

Of course, in the West, Google probably knows more about you than the government does.
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 4:30 PM on March 30, 2010

« Older Why don't characters ever make mistakes?   |   The weather's nice and I need new clothes Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.