The NSA files: Commentary: It's time to take back the internet
(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Cyberspace is broken. By subverting it at every level to serve as a vast surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined the fundamental social contract of the internet. We can no longer trust the companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data.
This is not the internet the world needs, nor is it the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back. And by we, I mean the engineering community. Yes, this is primary a political problem and needs to be solved through political means. But this is also an engineering problem, and there are several things engineers can do.
One, we can expose. I call on everyone who has been contacted by the NSA to subvert their products and protocols to come forward with your story. You do not have a clearance; you are not bound by any laws. And if you've left your job and moved on, you're not even tied to your old employer. We need to know exactly how the NSA is subverting routers, switches, the internet backbone, encryption technologies, and cloud systems. I already have five stories, and I've just started collecting. I want 50. There's safety in numbers, and this is the moral thing to do.
Two, we can design. I call for an emergency meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force, the traditional body that manages the technical details of the internet. This body needs to figure out how to re-engineer the internet to prevent this kind of wholesale spying. Three, we can affect governance. I have resisted saying this up to now, but the US has proved to be an unethical steward of governing the internet. The UK is no better. We need to figure out new means of internet governance, making it harder for powerful tech countries to monitor everything. Unfortunately, this kind of thing is going to play directly into the hands of totalitarian governments that want to control their countries' internet for even more extreme forms of surveillance. We need to figure out how to prevent that, too.
I have seen hundreds of Edward Snowden's top secret NSA documents, and the problem is worse than has been made public. The NSA's surveillance of the internet is broad, and it is robust. Dismantling it will not be easy, but it is something we have to do.
I can't tell you what the result will be. But I hope that when, generations from now, society looks back on these early decades of the internet, they will not be disappointed in us. That will happen only if each of us makes this a priority, and engages in the debate.
To the engineers: we built the internet in our lifetimes, we can fix it.
Bruce Schneier is an encryption specialist and fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]