Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hillary Clinton on Internet freedom

The US Secretary of State has issued a ringing declaration of the "freedom to connect" in her speech today. I'll try and dig up links later to the interviews I've done on this for the World Service and BBC News, but here's what I told Index on Censorship:
Hillary Clinton’s support for online freedom is welcome. I hope it leads to a push for Internet companies to make that freedom meaningful. Microsoft, Yahoo!, Cisco and others can all do much more to protect the privacy and free speech of Internet users around the world. Search engines should join Google in refusing to provide censored results. Webmail providers should store messages and account information out of reach of repressive regimes. Infrastructure companies should refuse to sell “surveillance-ready” Internet routers to countries such as China and Iran.

At the same time, democracies should be careful of their own online freedoms. The US and UK both require Internet Service Providers to enable real-time interception on their networks. The UK government has strong-armed ISPs into blocking access to web pages on a secret list of alleged child pornography, including last year a Wikipedia entry. European ISPs are required to log information about their customers’ online activity — which in the UK is accessible without a warrant to hundreds of central and local government agencies. We should hardly be surprised when repressive governments follow our own example.

You can also read a preprint of a much longer article I've written on Internet self-regulation and fundamental rights.

UPDATE: Bruce Schneier writes: "Whether the eavesdroppers are the good guys or the bad guys, these systems put us all at greater risk. Communications systems that have no inherent eavesdropping capabilities are more secure than systems with those capabilities built in. And it's bad civic hygiene to build technologies that could someday be used to facilitate a police state."


Anonymous said...

'Infrastructure companies should refuse to sell “surveillance-ready” Internet routers to countries such as China and Iran.'

... but its ok to sell them for our government to spy on us then?

Ian Brown said...

Agreed that is very problematic, as I wrote here and here. But at least we have the benefit of (some) checks and balances in their use, unlike in repressive regimes.