Week 2. Threats to the Free Digital Society
2.1. Digital Society: Inclusion or Escape? Surveillance, censorship, restricting the users
Threat 2: Censorship.
- Shall we aim for inclusion to or escape from the Digital Society?
- What are the threats to the Digital Society? Overview.
- Threat 1: Surveillance.
- Surveillance and Democracy: how are they compatible?
- Who watches the watchmen? Why society needs whistleblowers.
- Common engineering practice of the day: keep all the data you can.
- Three ways to spy on people. Examples and the ways to react:
- Through their own systems.
- Through the systems they use but don't own (e.g., phone networks).
- Surveillance systems which are designed specifically for this activity.
- Data from business surveillance systems is available to the state.
Threat 3: Data formats that restrict their users.
- Censorship in Internet: "filtration".
- Country examples (Europe, Asia, ...).
- Propaganda methods: using disgusting things (e.g., child pornography) to advocate censorship tools.
- Digital handcuffs.
- DRM: Digital Restrictions Management.
- Reasons why secret data formats exist.
2.2. Threats from software that the user do not control
- There are only two options: the users controls the program OR the program controls the users.
- Backdoors and Universal Backdoors.
- Real-life examples: Amazon Swindle, portable phones.
2.3. Threats from Service as a Software Substitute
- SaaSS: new way to lose control over your computing.
- SaaSS: how it works. Technical explanation.
- SaaSS is equivalent to running non-free program with universal backdoor which makes it proprietary malware.
- Paradoxical relationships between SaaSS and free/nonfree software.
If server software is free, it does not help the users. It benefits only the server owner.
- If server software is non-free then server owner does not control it. Somebody else controls it. The users do not benefit in either of the situations.
- Not all the services are SaaSS:
- Sometimes you can't fully control your computing - e.g., when you are communicating with other people.
- If your task can be done if you have powerful computer and required software, then server-based solution is SaaSS. Otherwise it is not.
- Examples of SaaSS: Translation and Speech Recognition services.
2.4. War on Sharing. Precarity
- What is sharing and why it is good.
- Attack on sharing is an attack on social cooperation.
- Two kinds of works:
- Works we need to do practical jobs (e.g. reference works, educational works): should be free.
- Others (e.g. entertainment, opinion, art) should be freely shareable.
- Ways to attack sharing:
- Laws which forbid sharing.
- Propaganda. Terms like "Piracy" and "Theft":
- Reject propaganda terms! Attacking ship is very bad, sharing is good.
- Legally speaking, copyright infringement is never theft. Sometimes it's a crime, sometimes not. But is it NEVER a theft.
- Publishing of the works using secret formats with the purpose to restrict the public:
- DVD "conspiracy": if you want to manufacture DVD player, you need to join the conspiracy. No competition in this important part of DVD player functionality!
- DMCA: Digital Millennium Copyright Act:
- Banning distribution of free software which allows to read DVDs in the secret format.
- Similar laws in EU and other countries.
- DRM: Digital Restrictions Management:
- Introduced by AACS (Advanced Access Content System) "conspiracy".
- Example of AACS power: they managed to ban analog video outputs.
- Disconnect people from Internet when they are accused of sharing (without a trial):
- Controlling what our technology does is a worse attack on society than controlling prices. It shall be treated as more grave crime.
- Usage of Internet is precarious:
- You need to cooperate with ISP, DNS registrar, other companies in order to do your tasks.
- Typically the contracts you sign are so, that they can be canceled for any reason by service provider.
- Example: Dirty Tricks campaign against WikiLeaks.
- Analogy: imagine that government convinces your phone or electrical company that it's in their interest to stop serving you.
- Regulation is needed like for other public utilities: no right to disconnect if I pay according to the contract, no way to discriminate single customer etc.