BenSwann.com, 28 February 2014
In the wake of leaked documents detailing extensive, indiscriminate monitoring of the internet a number of solutions have appeared. These new alternatives to the traditional world wide web could completely alter the way we access information. But can they stop a nosy government? Is it possible to have a truly secure network that cannot be undermined by overreaching authorities?
Last Summer the name Edward Snowden went viral as we learned about the former National Security Agency contractors leak of documents related to massive spying and surveillance operations taking place in the United States and abroad. We learned that nearly all digital communications are catalogued and stored in a database. We learned that internet giants such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and others work with the government to share your personal information. These revelations have prompted a wave of internet users to begin looking for a way to safely, securely and privately share information.
Total Information Sharing
One of the latest ideas to spring forth is a bold initiative called the Outernet. The Media Development Investment Fund is planning to launch hundreds of miniature satellites around the earth to create a wireless internet that anyone can access for free. The miniature satellite, or cubesat, will receive data from ground antennas around the globe and broadcast the content in the same manner as a television broadcast.
Not only could the Outernet revolutionize the cost of internet service, but MDIF is hoping to bypass internet censorship laws. The Outernet’s website states, “Access to knowledge and information is a human right, and Outernet will guarantee this right by taking a practical approach to information delivery. Lack of an Internet connection should not prevent anyone from learning about current events, trending topics and innovative ideas.”
MDIF has plans to have prototype satellites by June and working towards permission to use NASA’s International Space Station as a testing ground for the technology. If all goes well the Outernet could be functional by 2015.
Decentralizing the Internet
David Irvine is the founder of MaidSafe, Massive Array of Internet Disks, Secure Access For Everyone. The idea behind MaidSafe is to create a decentralized, distributed, secure and private network. Irvine and his team have worked for seven years to develop the algorithms that will allow the network to be self-regulating by borrowing users free hard drive space and in return offering an anonymous, high speed internet.
When a user logs into the MaidSafe network their data is split into many pieces and distributed to computers on several different continents. Those pieces of data are then encrypted with a level of encryption higher than the military. According to Irvine, MaidSafe “creates security by logic and mathematics. It operates autonomously and does not rely on intermediaries”
The MaidSafe platform also hopes to allow for ease of creation of applications for phones and computers. Since there is no API key to be purchased or infrastructure, there is little financial risk for developers. This level playing field will change the amount of independent start up applications available. MaidSafe also promises an uninterrupted internet experience. By maintaining a distributed network dependent upon many users around the globe (rather than on a centralized network subject to attack or power failure) the network will be able to maintain a constant connection.
Moving Past Dot-Com
Another brilliant idea is the Namecoin plug-in. Namecoin works similar to the crypto currency Bitcoin in the sense that it allows users to register names and information into a public blockchain. Currently, the Domain Name System (DNS) that most websites are registered with allows for removal of a site by a central authority. With Namecoin however, users can register domain names without depending on hierarchical government institutions.
One of the developers of Namecoin are already working on a beta test of a plug-in called FreeSpeechMe.com This plug-in allows users to view dot-bit (.bit) sites. Viral Electron Chaos Laboratories has launched tutorials with the plug-in to show webmasters how to set up Dot Bit versions of their Dot-Com sites. The Dot-bit sites are then registered into the public Namecoin blockchain. This decentralized network allows users to type Benswann.bit or Benswann.com and arrive at the same destination. The difference is that the Dot-com sites can be easily censored by governments and corporations.
A European Only Internet?
Edward Snowden’s leaks not only exposed the spying of government’s on their own citizens but also highlighted how the NSA is intent on keeping tabs on its perceived enemies and even closest allies. In response to the revelations on inter-governmental spying German Chancellor Angela Merkel has discussed the possibility of creating a separate European internet.
Speaking to Germany’s ARD, Snowden stated, “If the NSA can pull text messages out of telecommunication networks in China, they can probably manage to get Facebook messages out of Germany.”
The irony of the situation is that the majority of Western nations, including Germany and France, have their own version of the NSA’s spying programs. In November 2013 a trove of Snowden documents revealed that Britain’s GCHQ, Spain, Germany, France and others all work together to monitor their own people. Snowden told ARD, “They not only share information – the reporting of results from intelligence – but they actually share the tools and the infrastructure when they work together against joint targets and services.”
Knowing that most major players in the Geopolitical landscape are already spying on their people, is it wise to trust Angela Merkel when she says Germany hopes to create a private secure network safe from the prying eyes of the NSA? Chancellor Merkel made no mention of her country’s surveillance programs while discussing the possibility of a European only internet.
Decentralization Is The Answer
Edward Snowden has promised the release of more documents pertaining to surveillance in public, on the internet, and cellular networks. It is highly likely there will be more revelations on how easily the government can access your private information. While the majority of internet users opt for the “mainstream” world wide web and communication systems, there are obvious reasons to pursue open source solutions. The old systems rely on centralized networks and authorities. By utilizing, supporting, and creating decentralized peer to peer networks we help maintain the idea of the internet as a safe and secure place to share information and educate oneself.
Ideas like the Outernet, MaidSafe, NameCoin, and more will stretch the boundaries of what the internet can be. These ideas will be the ones that eliminate the effectiveness of any government regulation anyways. They will also render any silly corporate takeover of communications largely pointless.
Instead of expecting the United States government of 2014 to hear our cries and curtail spying programs, we should see this as an opportunity to create new ways of using the infrastructure of the internet and broadband services. Sure, the mainstream World Wide Web may be completely monitored and eventually censored, dull, and irrelevant, but that does not mean innovation will cease. With the open source technological revolution growing daily it is likely that some genius out there has already created the answer to our problems.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist, community activist, gardener and promoter from Houston, Texas. He is the co-founder of The Houston Free Thinkers, and co-host of Free Thinker Radio. Broze also hosts and produces a weekly podcast under the name the Conscious Resistance Live. His writing can be found on TheConsciousResistance.com , The Liberty Beat, the Anti-Media, Activist Post, and Ben Swann.com.