The PRISM debacle is speeding up the balkanization of the Internet

peoplechasmThe PR disaster that as PRISM and NSA rumbles on with new allegations this week of spying, around the world countries are reacting by starting to plan on creating isolated Internet within borders in what is a significant step toward balkanization.

Balkanization of the Internet is effectively the introduction of electronic borders that, usually, mirror a country’s borders. It can also be a ideological border, for example, a Halal Net is being mooted by some Middle East countries.

Effectively this isolates the Internet inside a country’s physical locale and controls who is allowed in and out, the same as any border control does when you fly to another country. In order to get into that Internet state, you will require an electronic passport of some kind.

The building blocks of this have been quietly built over the past few years with the prerequisite being some kind of national censorship of the Internet. Iran and China are often criticised for their firewalls, which filter out and monitor what citizens can and can’t see as they traverse the border. However, New Zealand, Australia, the US, and many other countries have this already.

Currently those filters are easily avoided by the use of a virtual private network (VPN), a method by which your traffic is encrypted and passes through those censorship walls without them being able to see where you are going or what you are doing. The war for privacy, also as a result of the NSA revelations, has stepped up significantly with the number of anonimising and encryption services exploding this year.

The next step to balkanization is creating and managing content and services within your Internet zone, as opposed to accessing it offshore. For example, if Brazil moves ahead with its plans, then Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and other large Cloud providers will have to ensure that the services they provide are delivered from within Brazil physically, as opposed to the United States. It is likely we will see an increase in governments demanding that data sovereignty becomes mandatory. In other words, government data and other data considered of national significance will have a legal constraint that it must be stored within the country.

Final steps of balkanization occur through the issuing of some kind of digital passport. This ensures that citizens are easily identified by security agencies and companies. Eventually, if you don’t have a digital passport, you won’t be able to access the Internet. This means the loss of anonymous and free access to the wider Internet. That passport will also allow, or disallow, you access into other countries Internet states.

In a reaction to the fact that the NSA has been spying on, well, everyone, countries and companies are starting to move a lot faster down this path. The rationale being that if data remains inside a country’s borders, then the NSA and other spy agencies can’t mass surveil it, which requires the traffic to cross international borders via the global fiber network.

We’re already seeing large technology companies examining how they can move their operations to friendly countries or even into international waters. More than one large technology company is looking at how they can move their data centres onto oil-rig type platforms or floating islands that can be anchored outside of every country’s borders in international waters so avoiding local law.

The flood of companies that are pulling out of U.S. and U.K. based Cloud services is continuing. Switzerland has taken on the task of selling Cloud services that are anonymised, in the same way their banks are, and they are doing nicely out of it.

Germany is investigating introducing balkanization within its borders in reaction to the spying scandal. The are already a considerable way down this path and are looking to change the physical fabric of the Internet to ensure that data flows within the country and does not traverse externally, where they can.

So is the European Union, who were slow to uptake Cloud initially, but are now pushing hard for a wider Internet state for all EU countries, with the exception of the U.K. who will be locked out given its relationship to the U.S. and other Five Eyes nations.

Brazil is also pushing very hard, intending to build their own internal Internet infrastructure to lock other countries out. They are also working on developing encrypted, internal to Brazil, email services.

“Constructing submarine cables that do not route through the US, building internet exchange points in Brazil, creating an encrypted email service through the state postal service and having Facebook, Google and other companies store data by Brazilians on servers in Brazil.” – Source

The United Kingdom is pushing hard, using the pedophile / terrorist red flag, for a very strong censorship firewall on its national borders. Interestingly, they will seek to install an actual piece of software on your device to manage it. Notionally, this is to stop children from inadvertently accessing inappropriate material, however the firewall will be able to do no such thing with the vast array of content being delivered from inside Cloud services. Facebook for example.

Turkey, Indonesia, and India, who have sat on the fence over the past few months in terms of taking action to isolate their networks, are this week tipping toward balkanization.

“The global backlash is only beginning and will get far more severe in coming months,” said Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Institute at the Washington-based New America Foundation think tank. “This notion of national privacy sovereignty is going to be an increasingly salient issue around the globe.” – Source

The Five Eyes are finding themselves increasingly alone versus the rest of the world with allegations this week that Australia has been spying on Indonesia causing a significant diplomatic ruckus. New Zealand has been lumped into this group comprising the U.K., U.S., Australia, and Canada.

The impact of balkanization is significant. It allows for any nation state to strictly control content and mass surveil their own citizens. In New Zealand the TICS bill along with GCSB bill put the government much closer to balkanization and mass surveillance. The ability for the GCSB to now spy on New Zealanders along with the legal capability to interfere with national network infrastructure is the envy of far-right, fundamental, authoritarian states.

Balkanization will impact the bottom-line of large technology providers who are pouring billions of dollars into Cloud offerings that are essentially location free. Workloads move with the sun around the world to the most cost-effective, energy effective data centres in real-time. Under balkanization, those companies will need to install services inside borders, leading to far more expensive ICT services for the end consumer whether personal, agency, or company.

Innovation is stifled as individual companies start to build their own technology without leveraging the global geek mind.

For the Five Eyes countries, now global pariahs, the ICT export sector is likely to fall, even as it starts to rise, because of the trust issue. We already see the rush of companies leaving the U.S. Cloud providers in preference to services that remain inside their borders. This will continue.

The United Nations is seen as an answer to the issue, however we all know that the U.N. is completely crippled by the veto vote holding nations that simply will never see eye-to-eye over how to manage the global network.

The geeks are raising red flags and warning all over the blogosphere but no one is listening. The U.S. and her Five Eyes partners have screwed up in a way that is epic. There has not been a fail this large in decades, if ever.

“The motivations of those nations questioning America’s de facto control over the global Internet may vary, but their responses are all pointing in the same troubling direction: towards a Balkanized Internet. Should this happen, the Internet is in danger of becoming like the European train system, where varying voltage and 20 different types of signaling technologies force operators to stop and switch systems or even to another locomotive, resulting in delays, inefficiencies, and higher costs. Netizens would fall under a complex array of different legal requirements imposing conflicting mandates and conferring mutually exclusive rights.  And much like different signaling hampers the movement of people and the trade of physical goods, an Internet within such a complex jurisdictional structure would certainly hamper modern economic activity.” – Source

The Five Eyes have effectively destroyed the concept of a free and open Internet that is the right of all citizens of earth through their illegal actions, which include industrial espionage, mass surveillance, and extra-judicial acts. New Zealand needs to carefully consider its position as the fallout continues.

Failing to act may damage an ICT Industry that could rival Fonterra while locking us out of international innovation, potentially denying us access to some services, while increasing the cost of the remaining.

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