October 25, 2020

The Internet is being threatened

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I received a very interesting article from Alan Norton published on TechRepublic (Feb 3) under the title “10 threats to the Golden Age of the Internet”.

Mr. Norton says, “We are living in the best of times, when an Internet connection can be found almost everywhere, when the majority of the population participates, and when the governments of the world have, for the most part, maintained a hands-off policy. For many reasons, WWW could more appropriately stand for the Wild Wild West and not the World Wide Web. However, threats seem to lurk around every corner.”

He lists 10 threats and all are worrying.

Government regulations: The USA Congress was about to debate the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) but thankfully they got cold feet because of the backlash from the American public and for the time being is dead. Norton warns: “Never underestimate the power of governments to destroy what they try to protect as they attempt to bring law and order to the Internet.”

Censorship: In a BBC World Service poll only a staggering low 53% of respondents felt “the Internet should never be regulated by any level of government anywhere.” Norton urges us all to take a look at China “to realize how government intervention can screw up a good thing.”

Taxes: Norton asks how long will it be before a “sin tax” is placed on persons viewing questionable sites, e.g. pornography, online betting, like the “sinful” products being sold by vendors – tobacco and alcohol.
Bandwidth limitations: This has already arrived in the USA. Norton lists the broadband bandwidth caps for major U.S. ISPs

Access charges: At the moment there are only a few free Wi-Fi options (Starbucks and McDonald’s are listed) whilst the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston charges a whopping $4.95 per hour!

Internet money: Internet chits is suggested as a way of ensuring everyone has an Internet account to pay for Internet products and services like watching a video, downloading, reading, etc. Google Wallet and Paypal would likely to become the model that rules the web.

Subscription-based income model: At the moment web sites are mostly free because of the advertising-based income model “is alive and well”. But it is only a matter of time. Pundits are still saying that the subscription-based model is coming.

The end of free services like Skype: At the moment basic services are free when you contact other members online. Norton worries quite understandably that since Microsoft purchased Skype it “can only mean that those days are numbered.”

Copyrighted material: This is a problem, Norton says, that needs to be addressed because “Artists should be paid for their work.” However, he cannot see how another law would solve the problem.

Privacy abuse: “Your privacy is under assault.” Norton lists Governments who publish your public information, search engines that collect your search terms and IP address, cookies that track your browsing activity, hackers who steal your personal information, keystroke loggers tracking your every keystroke and local shared objects such as flash cookies that are used by Adobe Flash Player and are not removed by the normal methods of cookie removal.

Finally Norton praises Wikipedia who did the right thing in making a stand against the introduction of SOPA and PIPA and says “the single greatest threat to the Internet is apathy.”

I urge all of you to visit  www.techrepublic.com/blog/10things/10-threats-to-the-golden-age-of-the-internet/3024?tag=nl.e101 read and send it to your friends. Otherwise “we might soon find ourselves reminiscing about the days of unfettered [Internet] use and free access. Too good to be true can’t last forever. It is possible that most of it will last if we fight to keep it that way. But if that doesn’t work out, enjoy the Golden Age while it lasts.”

Thank you Alan Norton and TechRepublic for making us aware of this very serious threat.

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