Internet Privacy

Talk about big aspriations: Pirate Bay wants to encrypt the entire Internet.

Privacy is an interesting issue; I've been interested in it since I coached the high school debate topic on it about 9 or 10 years ago. By the way, I think that high school topic was one of the best ones that has ever come along. Go check the list and see if I'm right.

Anyway, the idea of encrypting each and every internet transaction is confusing.

It's confusing because it highlights in bold relief the problems we have in concieving of the internet. It's something that we talk about in terms of nation-state ideas - like infrastructure and communication technology, but it's clearly so beyond the nation-state vocabulary.

I wonder if there is a good analogy that can help us sift through the discursive conundrum that the "beyond nation" status of the internet brings. Perhaps, I hope anyway, it might be a good focal point for solidifying international law as an enforceable and useful institution.

Do governments have the right or obligation to control the internet, as they might control products and people that come across its borders? In the subway the other day I saw a poster for identifying and reporting Asian wood beetles, which apparently are in the New York area and destroy native trees. Invasive species seems like a nice place to go, but what is the Asian wood beetle of the internet? Porn? Child porn? Copyright? The analogy isn't that powerful when you start to draft it.

Governments are having a lot of trouble re-framing their rhetoric to compensate for the problems of internet anationality.

Skype is a good case in point. The U.S. government is considering trying to ban Skype because Skype's encryption technology is so good that nobody can tap or listen in on a skype to skype call.

The company itself has said many times that they are unable to comply with requests for tapping because not even they have access to the randomly generated encryption keys that are created at the start of each call.

Perhaps the solution is an international sensibility of "supernationality" for internet users. that is, a sense of obligation beyond particular nation to particular people while using the internet. I think that privacy rights on the internet can be a good starting point for developing this ethic. If the Swedes are successful in their internet mega-privacy, this could create a nice discussion point for the ethics of being in a no-national place.