Tag Archives: internet

Google exec. says no to private drones

A new technology, developed for government use, with still-unknown potential uses for the gathering and distribution of information and things should be strictly regulated and kept out of the hands of private citizens, said the guy who helped change the world with a new technology, developed for government use, with still-unknown potential uses for the gathering and distribution of information and things.

In an interview with James Ball of The Guardian, Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt said he doesn’t think privately-owned drones should be allowed, and there should be an international treaty to that effect.

“You’re having a dispute with your neighbour,” he hypothesised. “How would you feel if your neighbour went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their back yard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?”

Schmidt set out the trajectory of robotic warfare and considered whether it would be confined solely to national governments. “It’s probable that robotics becomes a significant component of nation state warfare,” he said.

“I’m not going to pass judgment on whether armies should exist, but I would prefer to not spread and democratise the ability to fight war to every single human being.

Laying aside the blatant irony of a Google executive warning about the dangers of other people having too much access to private information (which The Guardian, to their great credit, raised with him), Schmidt seems to have an extremely narrow view of what Unmanned Aerial Systems can be used for.

“It’s got to be regulated. … It’s one thing for governments, who have some legitimacy in what they’re doing, but have other people doing it … It’s not going to happen,” Schmidt said. Like many of his comments on the subject, this sounds like a compelling argument for gun control, but it’s a stretch to apply this to drones.

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator. USAF Photo via Flickr.

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator. USAF Photo via Flickr.

Schmidt seems to have a fairly limited view of what drones are. The word has become near-synonymous with the military’s fixed-wing craft which are used for surveillance and targeted missile strikes abroad.

Other uses of remotely-piloted aircraft could be as revolutionary in their fields as the Predator-style drone has been for asymmetrical warfare, though. The problem, Schmidt points out, is that these fields could include invasion of privacy, stalking, harassment, and – in some dystopian view of the future – citizen warfare.

It’d be hard to make a sound argument against any regulations against flying robots operating around private homes and public airports, but to take them out of the hands of private citizens as Schmidt suggests would deal a great blow to the world’s ability to innovate. From medicine delivery in Africa to taco delivery in the San Francisco bay area to crop spraying, unmanned aircraft, multiple industry experts have told me, have the potential to be the “next big thing.”

And Schmidt, who works at the top of Google, which was created when two enterprising entrepreneurs thought of a new way to use the internet – originally created for the Department of Defense – should see that.

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Iran building its own, isolated Internet

Iran is in the process of creating its own version of the Internet, the latest in a string of moves that have rubbed the leaders of the free world the wrong way.

The state-sponsored intranet already has multiple government and academic-based websites as well as email service, The Washington Post reports.

The nation of 74.8 million made a big splash online in the summer of 2009 when outraged citizens took to twitter to organize protests against what was widely thought to be a rigged election. The movement was something of a prelude to the Arab Spring in 2011, when protestors across the Middle East used Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype and other social media to organize.

The message was clear: The internet is bad for oppressive regimes. Iran’s measures up to now – blocking select sites that might give citizens revolutionary ideas and throttling the net to the point where much of the modern web is useless – became useless in 2009 when Iranians nearly toppled the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 140 characters at a time.

Instead of trying to keep tabs on and properly control the real internet, Iran seems to have decided to build their own. They control it, and no pesky free-speech organizations will be invited. Naturally, the Obama administration is up in arms about the country’s new project (but hey – at least it’s not nuclear powered).

“We have concerns from not only a human rights perspective, but about the integrity of the Internet,” David Baer, deputy assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said in an interview. “When countries section off parts of the Web, not only do their citizens suffer, everyone does.”

The other problem is that Iranians will no longer be noobs. As they develop and implement an entire net – presumably home to millions of devices – they’ll gain vital knowledge of how networks work, which they can later weaponize.

By “laying down the fiber” and connecting thousands of servers inside Iran, the government would “build on their knowledge of networks and how they operate,” [former NSA Deputy Director Cedric Leighton] said, increasing their capabilities to both launch and repel cyberattacks.

“But no matter what you do, there will always be vulnerabilities in a network,” Leighton said.

The network, as of now, only has about 10,000 devices online according to the Washington Post. Will it be less secure than existing networks, making it a goldmine for the folks at the NSA? Will it work? Time will tell – Iranian officials say some key governmental and military functions will be shifted to the network by the end of the month.

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Senator to filibuster anti-internet legislation using the internet


A democratic senator has pledged to fillibuster the Protect IP act should it end up on the Senate floor. To make his point, though, Sen. Ron Wyden (D – OR), won’t turn to a dictionary or a phonebook. He’ll be reading the names of citizens who have entered them on his website against the legislation, scoring some irony points, along with the votes of first-ammendment-loving Oregonians.

Raw Story spoke with someone at the senator’s office, who filled them in on the strategy.

“He will do a standing filibuster, but at this point, we don’t necessarily have the votes to sustain his filibuster,” the aide continued. “Our goal is to continue to slow down this process and continue to educate members of Congress on why [the Protect IP Act is] the wrong approach.”

The legislation, pushed forward largely by the entertainment industry, which has lost millions of dollars in revenue to piracy, would heavily restrict online activity in the U.S., critics say. The senator’s website gives this brief:

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) would ruin so much of what’s best about the Internet: They will give the government and corporations new powers to block Americans’ access to sites that are accused of copyright infringement, force sites like YouTube to go to new lengths to police users’ contributions, and put people in prison for streaming certain content online.

CNet has a good rundown of SOPA and its predicted effects, as well as its differences from the Protect IP act including:

Protect IP targeted only domain name system providers, financial companies, and ad networks–not companies that provide Internet connectivity.

Because SOPA is broader, even some companies who liked, or at least weren’t vocally opposed to, the Senate bill aren’t exactly delighted with the House version.

“Verizon continues to look at SOPA, and while it’s fair to say that we have concerns about the legislation, we are working with congressional staff to address those concerns,” a spokesman told us last week.

Tim McKone, AT&T’s executive vice president of federal relations, said that “we have been supportive of the general framework” of the Senate bill. But when it comes to SOPA, all AT&T would say is that it is “working constructively with Chairman Smith and others toward a similar end in the House.”

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