We’re in the process of (finally) moving the site to Switzerland. You shouldn’t notice much when that happens other than (1) this post will disappear and (2) the theme will change.
The QoF TCP-performance-aware IPFIX flow meter I’ve been working on, on and of, for about a year, now seems to produce halfway plausible results and hardly crashes at all anymore, which means it’s time to follow the path of real artists immemorial and ship it already: see here, or if you’re really serious about it, just track master on github.
Bear with me here for a minute, and this rant will get to the point.
I was trying to explain the government shutdown to an Italian friend of mine last night (“so have you fixed the Silvio problem yet?” was my first-pass attempt to not talk about US politics before getting drunk enough to keep it from depressing me; I failed). I’ve come to realize that a successful overturn of the ACA by the petulant child wing of the Republican party would be an act of illegitimacy on the order of the appointment of George W. Bush as president by the Supreme Court in 2000. Continue reading
So I complain about a lull in the news about the more-or-less complete compromise of the Internet by the National Security Agency et al, and then this goes and happens.
One of my old standard interview questions for people applying for jobs with some responsibility for information security was “are you paranoid”? When the lighting was good, and my eyes bugged out just right, this could be a little scary. It’s time to retire this question, I think, because the answer would seem to be “no, I am clearly not paranoid enough”, unless the applicant shows up to the interview in a tin-foil hat.
This is the fourth post I’ve started on the pervasive, indiscriminate, uncontrolled surveillance of electronic communications by the ministries of state security of the North Atlantic world. I stopped writing each of the last three either because the rant got too paranoid, or further revelations showed that the rant was not yet too paranoid enough.
But the stream of new information seems to have dried up a bit, as the news cycle has distracted itself with something called a Miley Cyrus, whatever that is, so I’ve had a chance to catch up a bit. And as a researcher in network measurement who left a job funded by security-academic-industrial-complex money to move to Europe to work on a project seeking to apply technical privacy guarantees to network monitoring systems (which ironically was named PRISM, and which I must forevermore footnote on my CV as “no, not that PRISM“), I feel I should make some statement on all of this. So here it is, predictable and unoriginal though it may be:
Pervasive surveillance is anathema to a functioning democratic society, and nations which do not exercise effective civilian oversight of their state security apparati end up being controlled by them.
Last Thursday, I sat on a panel with Swiss Telecommunications Association President Peter Grütter, Swisscom CEO Carsten Schloter, and Green National Councilor Balthasar Glättli, on the subject of network neutrality, and whether legal protection therefor is necessary in Switzerland. Not surprisingly, the panel was of different opinions on this matter. Swisscom and the telecom industry group support self-regulation, making the very good point that laws change too slowly with respect to Internet technology too quickly to be effective; and Glättli making the equally good point that as several obvious violations of neutrality can already be observed in Switzerland, trusting the industry to regulate itself has so far had dubious results.
Coverage (in German) of the event can be found at computerworld.ch and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and if you’ve got 55 minutes to kill, video of the event itself (also in German) is available at the website of the Parliamentary Group on Digital Sustainability. Continue reading
The National Council of Switzerland1 is considering the addition of a guarantee of network neutrality into a forthcoming revision of Swiss telecommunications law. This is generally a Good Thing. We all like the Internet. This being Switzerland, we all like neutrality. So network neutrality must be great.
More seriously, the Internet has largely replaced the public switched telephone network and the postal system as the basic communications infrastructure of our society; just as with these systems, the “last mile” is a natural monopoly, so guaranteeing equal access to it is important. However, the results that legislation of network neutrality will lead to may vary widely based on how, precisely, it is defined. Continue reading
I’ve learned, after something happens in America, to wait a few days, first for the inaccuracies inherent in the twenty-four-hour news cycle to be spun out, then for the inaccuracies introduced by the inevitable political spin to cancel each other out, then for the inaccuracies introduced both by textual and cultural translation into the German-language media to at least settle down to a consistent-if-subtly-incorrect picture of what, exactly, it was that just happened, before I try to discuss it here in Switzerland. This is different in America, I explain, or that in the English-speaking world, we don’t have a word for whatever, Prohibition this, Puritans that, let’s not even talk about how the Second World War began in 1941, and so on.
I can’t explain this.
The Internet Society Switzerland Chapter’s inaugural national event was last night at the Käfigturm in Bern; in my talk, “The Open Internet under Threat” (which, as it turns out, was unwittingly inspired in part by a much earlier post on this blog; slides are here), I accomplished what I set out to do, I think — start a conversation about the present state of the Internet, and threats to its openness, to figure out where we ISOC people as politically-interested network geeks can make a difference. Balthasar Glättli’s talk on Internet politics in Switzerland, and the conversations that followed both talks, were eye-opening, ranging from the education of politicians on even the most basic technical realities of the Internet through framing Internet freedom issues for random people off the street to exactly how much regulation is necessary or desirable to guarantee the fundamental rights behind network neutrality. Thanks to ISOC, the sponsors, the organizers, and all who attended, for an interesting evening in Bern!
I’ll be giving a talk to the Internet Society (ISOC) Switzerland Chapter at a meeting in Bern, at 18:30 on Tuesday 27 November, entitled “The Open Internet under Threat”. After my talk, Green National Councillor Balthasar Glättli will speak on Internet-related topics in Swiss national politics, so it promises to be a really interesting evening for Internet geeks and policy wonks alike! Continue reading