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Privacy Laws Could Open Many Cans of Worms

"Can we (or, more to the point, should we) try to "codify" the laws and regulations of the world into digital form, allowing computer networks and applications to self-regulate?

What would the political fallout of such a system be?"

Also sprach James Urquhart in his Wisdom of the Clouds blog. I'm really jealous that he came up with this great name for his blog, and I think he's hit on something that's very profound.

Listen to Grandpa talk about the war, kids...back when I saw my first Internet map, I was at Uniforum 1984 in Santa Clara. Bang! addresses were in fashion, in those pre-@ days. The map was about four feet high and six feet wide, and had an incredible array of vectors, nodes, and clusters, spanning a Mercator projection of the world.

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Much excitement ensued about how scientific work could be carried on across borders, almost instantaneously. Such political trifles as the Iron Curtain could not stop clever users from hopping their messages, and the research contained in them, through any number of systems to reach their intended destination. Governments would no longer be the Orwellian obstructors of intellectual progress.

Well, the governments have caught up, and count Urquhart among the group of people who are bothered by this. Count me in, too.

I can't share my stupid little, harmless blog with a friend in China because blogspot is blocked by the Commies. I hesitate to try to contact friends in Iran because I'm sure that the badness of me doing so would be one of the few things that the bureaucrats in Washington and Tehran would agree upon. If a hypothetical friend of mine named Steve from the US would happen to send me a link to an, er, interesting modelling site, I probably won't be able to see it here in the religiously conservative Philippines.

The possibilities for government disruption of the Internet and Web are virtually endless. But these problems won't be solved by well-intentioned geeks who believe in open, free-flowing communications enabled by self-regulated systems. The hard work of a Global First Amendment is the work of diplomats: country-to-country as well as through NGOs such as the United Nations, ASEAN, the OECD, and any number of other groups in the alphabet soup.

This is as it should be. Utopian geek visions are very exciting to imagine, discuss, even strive for. But utopian, platonic idealism has always been met, and will always be met, by the messier, Aristotelian reality of how us human beings think and act. The totalitarian impulse resides in all of our alligator brains, and it will always be so.

So thus, we come to Cloud Computing. Maybe we can think of Cloud as the great Fourth Wave of computing, the first three being mainframe/minis, PCs, and the Web. Or maybe Cloud is the Unified Field Theory of all that's come before.

By placing most of the burden of capital expenditure and investment with those who wish to make a profit on this business, Cloud Computing frees up the rest of us to concentrate on what we really want to do. And that includes creating a world that allows freer communication. I don't think self-regulating networks are politically feasible, but if enough people keep pushing their utopian visions, we can at least make some progress.

About Roger Strukhoff
Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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