A daily battle for rights and freedoms in cyberspace is being waged in Asia. At the epicenter of this contest is China--home to the world’s largest Internet population and what is perhaps the world’s most advanced Internet censorship and surveillance regime in cyberspace. Resistance to China’s Internet controls comes from both grassroots activists and corporate giants such as Google. Meanwhile, similar struggles play out across the rest of the region, from India and Singapore to Thailand and Burma, although each national dynamic is unique.
Openness is not a given on the Internet. Technical standards--the underlying architecture that enables interoperability among hardware and software from different manufacturers--increasingly control individual freedom and the pace of innovation in technology markets. Heated battles rage over the very definition of “openness” and what constitutes an open standard in information and communication technologies.
We live in an interoperable world. Computer hardware and software products from different manufacturers can exchange data within local networks and around the world using the Internet. The competition enabled by this compatibility between devices has led to fast-paced innovation and prices low enough to allow ordinary users to command extraordinary computing capacity. In Interfaces on Trial 2.0, Jonathan Band and Masanobu Katoh investigate an often overlooked factor in the development of today’s interoperabilty: the evolution of copyright law.
Internet filtering, censorship of Web content, and online surveillance are increasing in scale, scope, and sophistication around the world, in democratic countries as well as in authoritarian states. The first generation of Internet controls consisted largely of building firewalls at key Internet gateways; China’s famous “Great Firewall of China” is one of the first national Internet filtering systems. Today the new tools for Internet controls that are emerging go beyond mere denial of information.
Telecommunication has never been perfectly secure. The Cold War culture of recording devices in telephone receivers and bugged embassy offices has been succeeded by a post-9/11 world of NSA wiretaps and demands for data retention. Although the 1990s battle for individual and commercial freedom to use cryptography was won, growth in the use of cryptography has been slow. Meanwhile, regulations requiring that the computer and communication industries build spying into their systems for government convenience have increased rapidly.
While the public and the media have been distracted by the story of Napster, warnings about the evils of "piracy," and lawsuits by the recording and film industries, the enforcement of copyright law in the digital world has quietly shifted from regulating copying to regulating the design of technology.
As the informational state replaces the bureaucratic welfare state, control over information creation, processing, flows, and use has become the most effective form of power. In Change of State Sandra Braman examines the theoretical and practical ramifications of this "change of state." She looks at the ways in which governments are deliberate, explicit, and consistent in their use of information policy to exercise power, exploring not only such familiar topics as intellectual property rights and privacy but also areas in which policy is highly effective but little understood.
The burgeoning use and transformative impact of global electronic networks are widely recognized to be defining features of contemporary world affairs. Less often noted has been the increasing importance of global governance arrangements in managing the many issues raised in such networks.
Many countries around the world block or filter Internet content, denying access to information that they deem too sensitive for ordinary citizens—most often about politics, but sometimes relating to sexuality, culture, or religion. Access Denied documents and analyzes Internet filtering practices in more than three dozen countries, offering the first rigorously conducted study of an accelerating trend.