The scandal of the PRISM Program of the National Security Agency (NSA), unleashed by the revelations of Edward Snowden, put the issue of privacy on the Internet (although not exclusively within it, also in other areas such as the of text messages, etc.).
Concepts for reflection
While in some parts of the world, control over the Internet takes place purely through state intervention -mainly in countries with a significant dictatorial bias- in others that intervention continues to exist but in a much more complex way. In capitalist countries, especially those in the "center", state intervention is intimately related to the astronomical growth of technological monopolies, whose fundamental base is the web. I am clearly thinking of the United States, where Facebook, Google, Microsoft or Twitter accumulate more and more information from users and that is, in turn, the information that the government uses for the sake of -so often used to make disasters- « National security". Not understanding this link between the state and the market is living in absolute ignorance and not understanding the problem in all its complexity.
Although the Internet is a network, and therefore it is based on a non-hierarchical structure, more and more we are seeing its centralization in a few hands. In other words, more and more a few companies handle all the information on the web. Surprisingly, this has been done many times with the consent of users who for convenience or for the sake of "belonging" have given their data or, directly, have done so without being aware of it. In other words, the centralization of the web is the responsibility, to a great extent, of a private initiative. It is the companies that do business with that information, apparently offering a lot of benefits for free and turning us, the users, into the product for sale. In countries where this does not happen, private initiative is replaced by state initiative (China, Egypt, Cuba, etc.). That is why I say that these two schemes are not comparable, nor is it correct to condemn one type of intervention and ignore the other: "Egypt is bad, Google is good" (or the other way around).
On the other hand, I think it is very important to remember that States are not "bowling balls", uniform, homogeneous and closed. Quite the contrary, it is there where multiple social demands are expressed, even contradictory to each other. This means that States are not mere "puppets" of companies, but can often mean a limit to their interests. This is seen across the board. Only if we think of the State in this way opens the possibility of fighting for laws that protect users to a greater extent.
One of the factors that most complicates the regulation of the Internet is that the territorial scope of the sovereignty of the States puts a limit on their field of action, not being equivalent to the scope of the Internet or that of companies (which does not stop have a territorial base, but a scope that widely exceeds territorial limits).
Furthermore, it must be remembered that the different States do not have the same power or the same responsibility within the global scheme. In the same way that it happens in other spheres, the North American State is not the same as the Brazilian State, to give an example. The concepts of "center" and "periphery" can help you understand what I am saying.
Finally, I find it interesting to debate and reflect on the following: coming from a scenario of original "lack of regulation" of the Internet and taking into account that each time we are going towards a more crude centralization of information, I ask myself: should we advocate to return to the "non-regulation" of the Internet - something like the Rousseauian State of Nature - or is it necessary to advocate for a "regulation" that privileges users (something like the regulation that protects citizen and democratic rights)? Honestly, I don't know to what extent advocating a return to an "anarchic" system without any kind of regulation can become a utopia or, worse, it can serve to play the game of the big monopolies. Maybe that's why we can see Google defending the "non-regulation" (state) of the Internet. WTF! We must not forget this great truth that some countries, like mine, have learned through hunger and poverty: the lack of regulation by the state is also a type of state policy, it is called neoliberalism.
Suppose, then, that the answer is to try to discuss regulation of the Internet. In that case, there is no escape: this must NECESSARILY be international in nature due to the very nature of the Internet, and that "international regulation" can only be agreed upon by States (which would be possible since States are not "bowling balls" ). An example could be the initiative of the European Union to regulate Google in the old continent or the laws of «net neutrality«, Like the one sanctioned by Chile.
This does not mean that any type of state intervention on the Internet (or other issues) is necessarily "good" or "benign", but it does not mean that it is unfailingly "bad" or "undesirable". Just as we can find commendable initiatives, there are also the ACTA and so many other efforts by multinationals to impose their vision of how the Internet should be. This contradiction is possible because, as we have already said, it is not possible to think of the State as a thing or tool in the hands of someone, but rather as a contradictory process, with cracks. Our effort should be directed, in my opinion, to forcing this contradiction; An effort that is not at all simple, especially when on the other side there are large monopolies, whose profits far exceed the GDP of several countries combined and that many times even have the support of the states in which they are located.
The difficult question that remains in the pipeline is: if regulation is necessary (to limit the power of monopolies or the governments of the day, for example) and the only way to achieve that regulation is through laws, cooperation and international agreements, what kind of intervention should our countries defend (I am speaking, for example, of Latin America or, more broadly, "the periphery")? And, in parallel, it will be necessary to be clear about the answer to the following: what type of regulation will the governments of the countries want to apply in whose territories a large part of the Internet information is stored and where the largest technology companies reside? Or what type of regulation will those dictatorial-biased governments seek? And finally: what is the best area to give this debate: the bilateral, the regional, the global?
The type of "regulation" I am talking about is none other than trying to ensure an Internet within everyone's reach, without restrictions. It is not about building a "global police force", which would also be impossible and ridiculous. In other words, for me, the objective is not a negative, police regulation, but a positive regulation, in order to defend and ensure citizen and democratic rights, in this case as Internet users. I do not believe that this can be possible - and it will be less and less so - without any type of state intervention and cooperation: as an example, how can a Brazilian citizen defend their privacy if their data is stored in another country? In a democracy, the only way to defend your rights both against the interests of the monopolies and those of the current government is through the laws (those who are not lucky enough to live in a democratic system, it goes without saying that they have it. more difficult), but they have the same territorial limits as the sovereignty of States, which is why international cooperation is essential.
I admit that my position is not easy, since on the surface it seems more comfortable to defend "non-regulation" and a return to the Rousseauian State of Nature in which we all run through the forest hand in hand. The joke is that the "regulation" so feared already exists and is not only enforced by the powers of the States (generally, those of the "center" and that the "periphery" must submissively accept), but also through private businesses. Tracking and marketing our information is the best proof of this: we have become the product for sale. Anyway ... the debate is open. I already threw the first stone ...
Alternatives to take care of your privacy (a little)
Ultimately, the PRISM scandal has helped put these issues on the table and has led many people to decide to do a kind of "responsible consumption" on the Internet. He another day I attended a conference of Werner koch, the head of GnuPG, who said that "it is likely that none of us can withstand a targeted attack, but as long as we stay within the 'mass of people' there are several things we can do to avoid tracking." Possibly right. Complete protection is impossible, but there are a number of things we can do "today and now" to reduce tracing by both big monopolies and some governments.
Here are some of the "safe" replacements to operating systems, applications and even online services that Koch mentioned in his talk and that can be found 'verbatim' on the website https://prism-break.org/#es.