Intermediated of the world, unite! | Radio Bruxelles Libera

I have the pleasure to report here the English translation of the article that Stefano Quintarelli, a pioneer of the Italian Internet, wrote for Il Foglio some days ago. I have been astonished by t…

Source: Intermediated of the world, unite! | Radio Bruxelles Libera, by Innocenzo Genna
English translation of: Intermediati digitali, unitevi | Il Foglio, by Stefano Quintarelli (Italian)

We can no longer limit the analysis to capital and labor, we must also include information in the equation and the digital revolution that expresses it.

In just a few years, the traditional capital-labor conflict has been wrapped and dominated by another conflict, a conflict with information that, through the control of intermediation, presses on both. … We are observing a monopolization in the domination of the relevance of the immaterial dimension over the material dimension, in the creation and distribution of wealth, with a rising conflict between intermediaries and intermediated, with the compression of rights and guarantees for large social bodies and with a significant political influence.

The info-plutocracy of the intermediators is based on a centralized control of information, both in terms of data (privacy implications are an epiphenomenon) and of processes with which such data are collected, processed, communicated and used.

Beginning in the 90s of the last century, … By choice, no pro-competitive rules were introduced because it was believed that they would slow down and possibly stall development. Rules were introduced regarding intellectual property and system violation, editorial responsibility, child protection, and investigations of justice, but not in terms of user contendability and competition. Entrepreneurs have learned to exploit this regulation to their advantage by using intellectual property laws to impose restrictive contractual conditions for their users, exploiting network effects … to limit the mobility of users.

The conflict between intermediators and intermediaries induced by the digital revolution of the twenty-first century develops in the relationship between information and production (understood as the product of capital and labor) and is starting a social confrontation between a model of management of centralized information that has developed in recent years (and supported by large technological multinationals) and a decentralized model promoted by some avant-gardes (philosophical, technological, political, etc.), a debate with profound differences between those who advocate closed systems and environments and those who fight for decentralization, to foster greater competition and the possibility for users contestability.

In some cases it has been proposed to build “state champions” (such as a public search engine, or a social network or a public platform for professional bidding). In other cases it was also proposed to consider social networking as a non-duplicable social infrastructure and someone even proposed nationalization. These are hypotheses that bring to my mind the Soviet response to the pressures of industrialization through state-owned companies.

I believe we need to respond as Western society has responded to the industrial revolution, that is, with more market oriented interventions, favouring less concentration of information and regulation of negative externalities. I believe we should not give in to the logic of the inevitability of closed systems and we must stand firmly on the side of openness.

To tackle the digital revolution we need a comprehensive package of measures that are based on the principles of what we have already done in the period of the industrial revolution: new forms of taxation, innovations in welfare, workers’ rights, public guarantee controls for consumers and, fundamentally, increased competition, procompetitive rules, user contendibility, interoperability of services, etc.

But this can hardly happen without an awareness of this new conflict of intermediation between information on the one hand and production (that is, the combination of capital and labor) on the other and without this awareness becoming translated into political action. In order for this political action to take place, it is necessary for the intermediaries to demand it by coalescing into awareness: “Intermediated of the world, unite!”.

Traceability | Communications of the ACM

Source: Traceability | Communications of the ACM, by Vinton G. Cerf

The ability to trace bad actors to bring them to justice seems to me an important goal in a civilized society. The tension with privacy protection leads to the idea that only under appropriate conditions can privacy be violated. By way of example, consider license plates on cars. They are usually arbitrary identifiers and special authority is needed to match them with the car owners (unless, of course, they are vanity plates like mine: “Cerfsup”). This is an example of differential traceability; the police department has the authority to demand ownership information from the Department of Motor Vehicles that issues the license plates. Ordinary citizens do not have this authority.

If we are to accomplish the simultaneous objectives of protecting privacy while apprehending those engaged in harmful or criminal behavior on the Internet, we must find some balance between conflicting but desirable outcomes. … In most societies today, it is accepted that we must be identifiable to appropriate authorities under certain conditions (consider border crossings, traffic violation stops as examples). While there are conditions under which apparent anonymity is desirable and even justifiable (whistle-blowing, for example) absolute anonymity is actually quite difficult to achieve and might not be absolutely desirable given the misbehaviors apparent anonymity invites.

Crypto Zealots | The ISP Column, by Geoff Huston

Source: Crypto Zealots | The ISP Column, by Geoff Huston, Chief Scientist at APNIC, the Regional Internet Registry serving the Asia Pacific region

Trust, once eroded, is fiendishly difficult to restore, and in this case the network has lost the trust of the applications that operate across it and the trust of the users that drive these applications. … However, I also suspect that the intelligence agencies are already focussing elsewhere. If the network is no longer the rich vein of data that it used to be, then the data collected by content servers is a more than ample replacement. If the large content factories have collected such a rich profile of my activities, then it seems entirely logical that they will be placed under considerable pressure to selectively share that profile with others. So I’m not optimistic that I have any greater level of personal privacy than I had before.

AMP for email is a terrible idea | TechCrunch

Source: AMP for email is a terrible idea | TechCrunch, by Devin Coldewey

What is the vast majority of “live” content on the web, stuff that needs to call home and update itself? Not articles like this one, or videos or songs — those are just resources you request. Not chats or emails. Cloud-based productivity tools like shared documents, sure, granted. But the rest — and we’re talking like 99.9 percent here — is ads.

Ads and trackers that adapt themselves to the content around them, the data they know about the viewer, and the latest pricing or promotions. That’s how Google wants to “modernize” your inbox.

Does “engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences” ring a little different now?

Brainjunk and the killing of the internet mind | TechCrunch

Source: Brainjunk and the killing of the internet mind | TechCrunch, by Danny Crichton

Michael Pollan, the best-selling author of food books including the The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules, summarized his philosophy of eating quite simply. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The idea was to spend more on quality, and avoid the sorts of junk food that are deeply unhealthy for our physical bodies.

I think it’s well past time to borrow that philosophy for our brains. … So let me propose a little framework: “Enjoy content. Not too much. Mostly paid”.