For the New Year, I tweeted that we should “ll work together in 2014 to keep the Internet open for the benefit of humankind everywhere.” That couldn’t be any more pressing as there is a full scale assault under way and we don’t seem to be doing much about it.
First, thanks to Edward Snowden we have a much better view into the extent of domestic and international surveillance activities. The non-democratic ultra-secret and blackhat based approach taken by the NSA has done much to undermine the trust required for an open Internet. A full on embrace of crypto and anonymity as a response has the potential to self limit openness. We need to make an overhaul of the NSA’s budget, civilian supervision, transparency of reporting a top political and protest priority for 2014. As part of this I support a pardon for Snowden.
Second, we have the rise of ISP level filtering. The UK is taking an unfortunate lead here. Not surprisingly this is being done under the guise of protecting children from pornography. This is of course energizing calls for ISP or country-level filtering in other places, such as Australia. Herdict is a project by the Berkman center to try to measure the impact of these kinds of filters on the reachability of different web sites. We should be supporting projects like this and actively protesting ISP level filtering ideally boycotting ISPs that filter if there are ones available in your region that don’t.
Third, the W3C seems to be moving closer to including DRM as a web standard. This seems partially in response to the burgeoning proprietary DRM solutions being pushed by different browser providers which in turn appears driven by the desire to support players such as Netflix. The MPAA has just joined the W3C which is likely to help accelerate this (check out the Twitter replies to the announcement).
Fourth, as more and more Internet traffic is moving to wireless devices with the continued fast growth of smartphones, AT&T is gutting net neutrality with a "sponsored" bandwidth scheme. In essence large providers can subsidize bandwidth which will then not count towards a monthly cap in plans. This is the kind of move that strongly tilts the playing field in the favor of large incumbents, many of which are the same companies that cooperated with the government on secret surveillance and are supporting proprietary DRM.
I am sure there is more, but these are the four that are on my mind. It will require a concerted effort by everyone who cares about these issues to help push back this year.