After the Snowden revelations: Is the Internet already breaking up?
"The next phase of the internet will be data-centred and connectivity-driven. Cloud computing, big data, the internet of things; tools which support manufacturing, education, energy, our cars and more. The internet is no longer about emails.
To make the 'leap of faith' into this new world, reliability and trust is a pre-condition. But when even the phone of the chancellor is not sacred, that trust can never again be taken for granted.”
The quote above was taken from a keynote speech by the European Commission’s Neelie Kroes at this year’s CeBIT exhibition in Germany. I don’t think anyone could argue that the NSA, GCHQ and other State-involved snooping revelations haven’t hurt peoples’ perception of how safe and private their data is online, though to be fair we are perhaps used to the boundaries being pushed publically by e.g. the near constant furore over Facebook’s ongoing user agreement changes or acquisitions. Random example here, arising from Facebook’s WhatsApp acquisition.
Do we care enough about privacy to change our habits? Look at the number of people and amount of activity online now. The Internet of Things means that more and more of our lives will be played out online. Business Insider reported on April 19th that, “from parking meters to home thermostats,” the number of devices connected to the Internet will reach nine billion by 2018, from 1.9 billion today.
To me, that represents a tidal wave. Unstoppable. Privacy concerns will be washed away by the sheer necessity of the Internet to our existence.
But I may have been hasty. When one thinks about the sheer power of the State in terms of promoting intervention, it is wise to remember that this kind of power can be directed in different ways. Vladimir Putin hints in today’s Guardian (UK) that, to protect Russian security interests, the idea of developing a separate Internet for Russia might be an option. The concept of the World Wide Web would be thus undermined – and if Russia were to do such a thing, other nations would follow.
So we as individuals may have options that further affect our privacy in the perhaps-not-so-distant future. At the same time, recognising that we are not going to be using the Web less in future, we need others to step up for us as well.
The organisations that provide our banking services and online purchases and other vital applications that we need to get things done, privately and professionally, have a duty to place our security front and centre. They should be thinking about who is connecting to their services, why and where from. Does this fit with known behaviour? Is there evidence of online fraud or suspicious activity?
Context – understanding more about the user and applying intelligent security policies as a result -will be everything for companies to not break the trust that exists between themselves and their customers.