INDEX Sunday, 1 January, 2017

Battle for the internet, on a screen near you!
There's a titanic struggle for the soul of the internet going on right now and no-one is talking about it.

In the blue corner is big business anxious to cash in on the massive rewards trading via the internet offers them. In the even bluer corner are the national governments, specifically the security services whose ambition, close to being realised, is to turn George Orwell's 1984 from a work of fiction into a manual for the way the state should operate in the 21st century.

Government wants every phone, every laptop, every tablet to be a spy in your pocket, your brief case or your handbag. Gone are the days when security services were great at collecting information and really, really awful at finding out exactly what they
had got. Information overload on a truly gigantic scale. These days thanks to the algorithms created by commercially minded software engineers at the social media giants, it's possible to data mine this information to answer almost any question about an individual. The people who can tailor adverts on your screen, determining if you need to buy a new washing machine or perhaps are in a mood to order a take home pizza, can use the same techniques to discover if your keystrokes reveal that you are an anti-social subversive. Do not believe you can disguise your thoughts. You can't. They have millions of terrabytes of data and a rapidly increasing data set to compare your keyboard behaviour to.

But the big government team is running into a conflict with the even bigger corporations. They need an internet that feels safe to do business on. They need you to believe it is just as safe as the public highway or the shopping mall.

One immediate area of conflict is the software equivalent of the backdoor. Governments need to have a way of getting into your computer without you knowing it. Software developers who created too secure products might lock them out, so they need what amounts to pass keys.

The problem is that if you let the governments in, you also let the crooks, the hackers and the stalkers in. Despite billions of pounds spent on security, the internet today is a less safe and a leakier place than it has ever been. It's like that because it is designed to be like that.

The only answer is that some of these mentally deranged people who the US courts pounce on threatening to lock them up and throw away the keys because they have had the temerity to hack into the Pentagon, or some such place, should launch a defence that they could only do this because the internet was designed to be like that. And it was big government who laid down the design parameters.
Posted by Jonathan Brind.
INDEX Sunday, 1 January, 2017