Latest read: The Future of the Internet

Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University wrote The Future of the Internet–And How to Stop It. This book is very interesting for all the wrong reasons. Zittrain documents that existing, closed, controlled systems are damaging the internet an if continued, he writes will negatively impact our future access and interaction.  I enjoyed reading the book and dedicated blog established by Zittrain to keep his conversations moving forward.

The Future of the Internet

BTW: The cover is not an actual photo rather a Photoshop’d image. However the image clearly represents his message.  The book is about Generativity impacting the internet.  Ultimately his argument is to place generativity at the core of all open technologies that tap into the internet.

Zittrain begins Part I in the book with a tbit of historical reflection: The Battle of the Boxes, Battle of the Networks and CyberSecurity.  He followed on the impact of legal lessons learned from Wikipedia.  There are plenty of examples how open, generativity systems make the internet better.  Here are a couple of examples Zittrain addressed that do not:

Law enforcement agencies have used network devices to manually turn on OnStar (the in-vehicle security, communications, and diagnostics system from GM) to record and monitor conversations of unknowing passengers.  OnStar is installed in over 50 models of GM cars alone.

The FBI requested from a judge the ability to turn on the microphone of a unsuspecting cell phone owner allowing law enforcement to tap, track and record conversations.

Think about that for a moment. Ever take a picture with your digital camera or cell phone?  Millions of people do this everyday and upload content to photo-sharing websites like Flickr.  Can you imagine taking a series of photographs — only to later realize the camera (via remote commands) copied all your photos without your knowledge.  Zittrain addresses how your personal content can be affected by a judge in Texas while you live … say in Ohio.  Don’t believe it? Read Chapter 5: Tethered Appliances, Software as Service and Perfect Enforcement” to see how a judge in Marshall Texas did just that — regarding a copyright case involving TiVo.

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Latest read: Who Controls the Internet?

Think the internet is still the wild west?  Think again.  In a new update of Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World law professors Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu share how the long arm of foreign governments still can stretch the illusion that the internet (and thereby globalization) are shrinking the world.

On the surface you may believe — even in 2009 that you can still say anything, do anything or hack any computer around the globe without impunity because you can hide inside the internet.

Goldsmith and Wu challenge Tom Friedman’s (The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century) position that globalization is opening up communication in countries that have long suppressed their citizen’s ability to speak freely.

China for example. Or think about the European Union.  Is the EU able to dictate how Microsoft releases software?  Think again.  When Microsoft published it’s passport technology it was rejected by the EU.  Rather than pay a fine Microsoft added the tougher security standards dictated by the EU for all customers worldwide.  Those standards are even tougher than those used in America.

Can France tell Yahoo or eBay what products to sell?  They can and they already do.  This book is written from a legal standpoint since both teach at the Law Schools of Harvard and Columbia respectively. Is it strange to see government control over the internet?  Would this be different if today was September 10 2001?  Goldsmith and Wu share their insight to the way Law helps and hinders the internet.  From simply selling memorabilia to cybercrime you learn gaping holes exist even today to prosecute offenders and criminals.

The “I Love You” virus that cost US companies millions of dollars originated in The Philippines, but since there is no law against this type of crime in the The Philippines the US was unable to arrest the known hacker.  Similar rules apply in Russia. When the FBI arrested a hacker who extorted millions from US companies, Russia did not acknowledge this type of crime and did not agree to extradite, so the FBI was forced to release the criminal.

Goldsmith and Wu share the legal case between Yahoo and the country of France that forced Yahoo’s online store to pull Nazi related memorabilia even though Yahoo is an American based company.  But Yahoo’s remote offices in France proved to the key error Jerry Yang overlooked.  Yahoo has stumbled a lot lately.

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