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An Orwellian world for Big Brother

Ken Craggs
Online Journal
Friday, January 15th, 2010

The Council of Europe document ‘Internet Governance and critical Internet resources’ states (p.7) that “ . . . the Internet of Things refers to the seamless connection of devices, sensors, objects, rooms, machines, vehicles, etc, through fixed and wireless networks. Connected sensors, devices and tags can interact with the environment and send the information to other objects through machine-to-machine communication . . . The Semantic Web promotes this synergy: even agents that where not expressly designed to work together can transfer data among themselves when the data come with semantics.”

Pachube (pronounced Patch-bay) is a platform that helps individuals and organisations connect to and build the ‘internet of things’ and enable buildings, interactive environments, networked energy meters, virtual worlds and sensor devices to “talk” and “respond” to each other. Pachube, according to the founder, Usman Haque, is a vision inspired by Dutch architect Constant Nieuwenhuys and his 1956 proposal for a visionary society, New Babylon.

Around the world, a near invisible network of RFID wireless tags is being put on almost every type of consumer item. Wireless tags and sensors are being produced in their billions and are capable of being connected to the Internet in an instant. Yet this network is being built with little public knowledge or consent.

IT company Hewlett Packard intends to create a Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE), consisting of a trillion nanoscale sensors and actuators embedded in the environment and connected via an array of networks with computing systems, software and services to exchange their information among analysis engines, storage systems and end users. Ericsson, the Mobile telecommunications company, predicts that 50 billion devices will be wirelessly connected in 2020 and Cisco envisages the next generation of the Internet as having 1,000 times as many devices as the current Internet.

Sense Networks collects billions of data points about people’s locations from cell phones, taxi cabs, cameras, GPS devices, WiFi positioning, cell tower triangulation, RFID and other sensors to locate people and help predict human behaviour on a macro scale. This is the original text of the CitySense proposal submitted to the NSF Computing Research Infrastructure program in 2006.

TuneUp Utilities 2010

Tracking and locating people and objects which are constantly moving is said to have become more important to the daily routine of individuals, commercial organisations, the emergency services [and governments]. GlobalTag is the first wireless tracking device that incorporates GPS, RFID, Sensors and Satellite Communications. And the Viewpoint i2g can track assets and/or personnel whether they are indoors or out. ViewPoint integrates the interior positioning system (IPS) data of the ViewPoint system with data from global positioning system (GPS) sources. This integrated IPS and GPS information can be accessed from popular mapping services, including GoogleEarth and Microsoft Virtual Earth.

Considering that the doors of a many cars can be locked and unlocked with a signal, how long will it be before similar technology is applied to the doors and windows of all buildings, including each and every home. Each building will probably have a receptor which receives a signal and activates the locking of doors and windows. The receptors on homes in a housing estate, for instance, could be switched on or off, via the Internet of Things, in a manner similar to the way that a telecommunications company can disconnect some landline telephones in a street while leaving the other landlines in that street connected. Sometime in the future, people with anti-social tendencies may end up being locked up in their own homes while their fridges, lights and other household appliances are controlled by Big Brother through the Internet of Things.

A recent study for the European Commission entitled ‘Towards a future Internet’, stresses the view that much of the governance issues for the future Internet are related to political will and leadership . . . A balance must be struck between overregulation and under-regulation, a safe society and a surveillance society. The future Internet should not be designed for technocrats, governments and businesses, but for ordinary citizens, while protecting their security and privacy and limiting government surveillance and Orwellian-like control. The report goes on to conclude that the current Internet administration has limited transparency and that the Internet has become increasingly ubiquitous and grown to become a critical infrastructure, on both a technical and socio-economic level and that in the future, there will be multiple Internets, rather than the single Internet we have today.

This article states that “A new Internet (GENI) could ultimately mean replacing networking equipment and rewriting software on computers, at a cost of billions of dollars. But any new network is likely to run parallel with the existing one for some time, with individuals and businesses gradually migrating over as they need more advanced applications.”

In 2002, W3C founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee raised what is known as ‘Issue 25’ regarding ‘What to say in defense of principle that deep linking is not a legal act?.’ By the end of 2009, Issue 25 had still not been resolved. W3C members include the UK and US governments, so Issue 25 says a great deal about the true spirit of ‘Open Government’ when W3C are willing to go ahead with the semantic web and linking open data without firstly finding out if their activities are legal or illegal.

Page 13 of the EIFFEL Report states, “We are beginning to cluster the world around us, but we are only at early stages. Newspapers were a mechanism for filtering, organizing and limiting information that otherwise would overwhelm us. With the demise of newspapers, what elements of the almost infinite flow of bits will bring order that is reflective of the human mind and human social structure? . . . In the current economic and political situation, no country can make decisions that will have only a local effect. There is no more isolation. Given that, one must consider the relationship between the Internet and governance. And perhaps even more importantly, the Internet may change forever governance of, by or for a people. Blogging and cell phone cameras that can transmit photos are having profound effects on the capability of individuals to constrain their governments at times when the governments may not want that.”

View the original article at Online Journal

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