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[liberationtech] Internet is designed for surveillance

Bob Frankston Bob19-0501 at
Wed Jun 26 12:39:40 PDT 2013

I realize it's very hard to give up on the idea of networks but they are no 
more necessary for communicating than railroads are for travels. Nice options 
but not the only ones.

As you note the idea of rent-seeking is at the heart of the matter. Being 
around when the fathers and mothers of the Internet were putting it together 
gives me useful perspective -- I know that Ethernets are not really networks 
and that we have connections between islands of connectivity.

This means that connectivity is not a service -- just something we do with 
what we find lying around. The hierarchies, DNS, backbone were expedient 
engineering hacks that are not at all fundamental. We stay with them because 
we are stuck with the idea that we communicate within pipes like we did with 
telegraph wires but the Internet gives as an alternative (as I wrote in and go into far more detail in

In I provide an alternative funding model which 
doesn't require today's constructs merely to make bits billable.

Once we aren't confined to pipes we can then do very decentralized protocols 
and view mechanisms like the DNS as applications rather than plumbing.

Intercepts and all that may be legal -- but we aren't obliged to talk into 
their microphones.

Bob Frankston

-----Original Message-----
From: Bernard Tyers - ei8fdb [mailto:ei8fdb at]
Sent: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 15:15
To: liberationtech
Cc: Bob Frankston
Subject: Re: [liberationtech] Internet is designed for surveillance

Hash: SHA1

Hello Bob,

I agree with you on the whole but I'm going to argue some of your points.

On 26 Jun 2013, at 17:03, Yosem Companys wrote:

> From: "Bob Frankston" <Bob19-0501 at>
> The current implementation of the Internet is hierarchical in that we get IP 
> addresses from provides and then use a DNS that is rooted.

Well, its "decentralised hierarchical" I guess. To be fair, there is nothing 
from stopping you or I from running our own DNS servers. However, at some 
point, I guess it will have to get its answers from root servers.

> We go even further in requiring that we conform to conditions on our intent 
> (AKA our use) of connectivity in order to get a temporary lease on something 
> so fundamental as our identity in the guise of a DNS name. We go further by 
> accepting the idea that we communicate within pipes owned by service 
> providers who can dictate terms in order to extract a rent.

Someone has to build, maintain and expand the backbone infrastructure. I'm not 
for one minute saying the Verizon's, AT&T, Vodafone's of the world are the 
best to do this. But it is expensive. Nowadays telecoms operators are more 
interested in sponsoring sports stadia, or film events than paying for the 
hardware needed. Thankfully this is causing their destruction.

David Burgess from Open BTS said this about telecoms last year:

"....will be served by companies that look and work a lot more like Red Hat 
than like Nokia-Siemens. I see that vision too, and I see products (not 
projects, products) like OpenBTS and OpenBSC.....having places in that world. 
If we are correct about this vision of the future, then that small gathering 
of hackers.....may have held the seeds of a revolution that will fundamentally 
change a multi-trillion dollar industry." [1]

These are the kinds of projects are the way of the future, but they still rely 
on infrastructure companies to carry packets to reach maximum range.

> Once you accept such an architecture and such rules it seems disingenuous to 
> act surprised when those whom we've put in charge take advantage of this 
> control for whatever purpose whether for advertising or for our safety (real 
> or imagined).

Why so?

We pay them for a service to provide us connectivity. We do not pay them to 
facilitate worldwide surveillance with no basis.

Governments and LEA enforce "legal interception protocols" and build in 
requirements for any nation who wants to build a 3GPP standard mobile phone 
network to install legal interception equipment. By this I don't mean 
Finfisher or other sickening weapons of mass surveillance.

Advances in communications technologies like LTE/SAE ("4G") have built into 
their core Deep Packet Inspection. This is there for network management 
purposes, but lets be honest, it can (and is) used for other reasons.

I would be amazed if any private individual asked ETSI (European telecoms 
Standards Institute) or ITU (International Telecoms Union) to require telecoms 
providers to install surveillance equipment. This is a legal battle.

> We may ask for restraint on the part of those who enforce the rules but 
> every time there is an outrage (often called terrorist attack) we (perhaps 
> not the same "we") demand more surveillance.

We demand more surveillance because we have been blinded by the "more 
surveillance protects us". I have been happily surprised by the number of 
conversations I have had since this Prism story was released.

The number of times I have been banging on to people about these topics. 
People are starting to consciously realise and importantly *becoming angry* 
about these events.

>  The ideas behind the Internet - the use of raw packets that have no 
> intrinsic meaning in transit - should enable us to communicate without 
> having to agree to all of these conditions and without subjecting ourselves 
> to prior restraint.

For me the issue with privacy on the Internet s not that it *is* designed for 
surveillance. It's that it *was* designed for open, transparent communications 
within a restricted self-controlling group, who all-in-all had no intention of 
doing anything "bad".

I read an article about, I can't remember exactly who, (Vint Cerf, Bob 
Metcalfe, Bob Kahn) and they were asked what were they thinking about when 
they worked on early Internet protocols. There answer was (paraphrasing 
terribly): "I wasn't thinking about the military generals thats for sure."

While I have the utmost respect for the mothers and fathers of the Internet, 
they failed future generations by not building privacy and security into the 
founding protocols.

For me, as a result, we are now in the place where we are today - trying to 
fix the sticking plaster onto the big open cut.

> Even if we didn't fully appreciate the idea of raw packets we still have to 
> wonder why we accept a rent-seeking approach for something so vital as our 
> ability to communicate.

I agree, but while it's not the *exact* same as road infrastructure, that is 
how I look at it currently.

Originally the point of the Internet was to decentralise infrastructure - the 
nodes that move packets from Bob to Alice.

Now we have decentralisation in the end nodes - Joe running his Raspberry-Pi 
over his 3G connection on the side of a mountain. Or Frank running his 
SailMail e-mail programme running over HF SSB-Pactor powered by a community of 
ham radio ops which feed into ISPs.

For me the end node decentralisation has won. The battle is now with the as 
you say "rent-seeking" service providers.

This battle is not technology, it is legal. The technology to make an 
independent ISP is there. Has been for 10-15 years. The problem is getting the 
lawmakers to support them.

How come all (or at least the majority) of the independent ISPs are gone in 
the USA?

> Where is the effort honor the Internet paradigm and move away from the 
> presumption of hierarchy to a distributed approach that doesn't assume that 
> we must declare our intent merely to exchange bits?

Sorry I don't follow.

> At very least we should move beyond having rent-seekers in the path.

A-f*#king-men to that, Bob.



- --------------------------------------
Bernard / bluboxthief / ei8fdb

IO91XM /

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