014_G18_InSight_GlobalSociety

Global_18

Global Insight Information Society Guardians of the web From spying on ordinary citizens to censoring Google search fi ndings, governments are using the internet in ways that could not have been dreamed of 25 years ago when the web fi rst came to be. World Wide Web Foundation CEO Anne Jellema talks about her hopes for the internet’s future Ekaterina Bystrova In the early 2000s, the idea of countries like the USA and the UK spying on their citizens – and even monitoring the phone calls of other democratic leaders – would have made a good plot for a conspiracy fi lm. Today, online surveillance is a familiar issue, but just a few years ago the idea had barely even touched most internet users’ minds. “I remember being at a conference just before Edward Snowden revealed the fi rst of his leaks and at the conference there were experienced technology experts from around the world,” recalls Anne Jellema, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation. “There was a representative from Microsoft, I think, on the stage and he was asked a question by someone in the room, and he explained that, because Microsoft is a US company and its servers are located in the US, they have to comply with US law and turn over data under the terms of US law to intelligence agencies on anybody in the world. And there, a palpable wave of shock went through the room as the implications of that sunk in.” What few people had thought through is the fact that even multinational companies are registered somewhere in the world and the laws of that country do apply to them. “The internet is not quite as virtual as we think it is,” Jellema adds in a wry tone. The internet is a universal network that can function independently of physical national borders. But governments are able to enforce national boundaries at the level of infrastructure and regulation, Jellema explains. They are able to shut down mammoth sites like YouTube, demand that companies share user data, and regulate the market for internet access in such a way that there’s a lot of second 14 l www.global -br ief ing.org quar ter 2014 global


Global_18
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