Who Broke the Internet?

In November 2020, cryptographer, computer security guru, privacy specialist, public-interest technologist, and writer Bruce Schneier gave a virtual talk at the International Symposium on Technology and Society titled “The Story of the Internet and How it Broke Bad”. The video only recently went online. It’s a whisker under 20 minutes long, and is well worth a watch…

“I want to tell the story of how tech became water, and how that water got poisoned…”

“The original promise of the Internet was that it would exist outside of Old Power … and put that power in the hands of ordinary people. But money is its own kind of power, and when corporations started to dominate the Internet, they became de-facto governments. Slowly but surely, the tech companies began to act like Old Power.”

“Private tech companies have greater power to influence, censor and control the lives of ordinary people than any government on earth.”

But all is not lost…

“We can all participate in shaping the technology we use, not just as passive consumers but as active members of society.”

‘We need to fundamentally rebalance the relationship between tech and government. We need to inhabit government…”

“Big changes are coming. Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, 5G communications, Big Data, robotics, biotech. Computers are increasingly making autonomous decisions and affecting the world in a direct, physical manner. And they will change many aspects of society: work, family, the economy, personal and national security, liberty, freedom, democracy… And we can create these systems to prioritize different goals. We can prioritize short term corporate profits, of course, or government control. But we can also prioritize autonomy, privacy, human rights and liberty, freedom and democracy. All of these are possible goals we can choose. I want us to explicitly decide which future we will collectively create.”

Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr

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