What’s wrong with the Internet today

What’s wrong with the Internet today

In the summer of 2019, Pew Research Center interviewed U.S. residents about their emotions about collecting personal data. Report came out in the fall with an expressive title: “Americans and Privacy: Concerned, Confused and Feeling Lack of Control over Personal Information. In addition to the emotions listed in the title, it turned out that a significant number of respondents simply do not understand what companies and the government do with the collected data.

“Privacy of data over the next ten years will be the biggest challenge,” – writes Forbes columnist Mary Mian.
The famous historian Yuval Noah Harari considers personal data almost the most valuable thing a person has: “The principle of exchange “we give you something for free, and you give us data about yourself” is the worst principle of exchange in the world, – claimed the anthropologist in
interview Vladimir Posner. – Your data is the most important asset that you have. However, data privacy is not the only problem with the Internet today.



Technical device

The World Wide Web is based on domain name systems (Domain Name System, DNS) and IP addresses. DNS is a distributed computer system for obtaining information about domains. Most often it is used to obtain IP addresses by computer or device name. In turn, IP address is a unique network code of a node in a computer network built on TCP/IP protocols.

Historically the first and most popular system root domains is managed by ICANN. There are a number of other systems, but for good reason they are called “alternative” – none of them have become widely used. Pavel Zavyalov, Development Director of the Dateline Company, makes an analogy with postal addresses: imagine that a certain city has introduced its own system of street names and house numbering; in order for a letter to reach it, you need to know both “your own” system (so that your post office processes the letter correctly) and “someone else’s” system (so that the recipient’s office accepts the letter and delivers it to the recipient). And what if each of the intermediate points has its own system too? Of course, it is much easier to use a unified and common domain name system than to coordinate disparate ones.

IP addresses and other Internet resources are distributed globally by the IANA, and regionally by five Internet registrars, who then pass on the resources to their members. Like the telephone number system, the IP-address system works on the mutual agreements of the involved parties and on the willingness to tolerate some imperfections to ensure communication between subscribers.



Internet protocol is one of those technologies, says Pavel Zavyalov, which were conceived as temporary, but remained in use. We are talking about the protocol IPv4, which was first used back in 1983 in the ARPANET network, the predecessor of the Internet. In the mid-1990s, the IPv6, an improved version of the protocol, which, among other things, made it possible to greatly increase the number of available addresses. The two systems are now coexisting.

Domain name and IP address systems can hardly be clearly called centralized or decentralized. On the one hand, there are indeed organizations managing them. On the other hand, resources are distributed at the local level – by domain registrars and providers that assign IP addresses. In addition, it is important to remember that both ICANN and IANA have coordination functions. Zavyalov emphasizes: problems don’t start from the fact that there is a conditional “center”; they occur only when centralization creates the ground for censorship.

Besides the birth traumas of the basic protocols of the world network, there are other problems related to its centralized architecture:

  1. If a lot of users come to the site at once, it may not be able to withstand the load and disconnect, and then all visitors will receive an error message. This is used in DDoS attacks when the server is flooded with a bunch of “trash” requests to disable it.
  2. Tier-level issues: consolidating capacity in the hands of hosting providers. For example, by data 2018, 34% of all Internet was hosted on Amazon servers. This means that Amazon’s technical problems concern all major Internet services that rent server capacity from it. Such cases threaten to cascade down or at least malfunction at thousands of popular sites.
  3. Server stability issues are automatically accompanied by data security issues that are stored on these servers. The more data is in one place, the more people will suffer from hacking.
  4. It is a centralized structure that allows governments to conduct censorship, making it much easier for them to monitor citizens and violate their privacy. This consideration naturally leads us to the second scourge of the modern Internet.
  5. .

State Control

“Governments have a bad attitude towards decentralization,” says Dmitry Vitaliev, founder of eQualitie. – Because most of them are interested in being able to monitor behavior and receive user data”. Dmitry is categorical: Internet disconnection and network censorship systems are now possible precisely because the main Internet protocols and key services are centralized. It is the established structure of the network that allowed the Indian authorities last year to completely cut from the World Wide Web the rebellious state of Kashmir, leaving the residents not only without information, but also without the most important services such as banking and ordering rare medicines.

Government and government officials are increasingly trying to control the Internet and invade the private area.
Thus, a couple of years ago in the UK passed a law under which telecommunications companies must disable encryption on their communication channels at the request of the authorities. A similar law could be adopted in the EU. The Russian authorities try to transpose into cryptographic algorithms of Russian development – “in order to protect against threats from the outside”, of course.

Last year, Russian agencies began testing technologies to control data transfer – following the entry into force of the relevant law “on the sovereign Internet“. It is not yet clear where exactly this will lead to: judging from the fact that several airports have stopped working during the exercise on the sovereign Internet, the equipment for repelling threats and filtering officially forbidden content has yet to be improved.

The world’s most popular intelligence argument for justifying access to personal data is to investigate crimes, counter terrorism and other public security concerns. Moreover, not all the information we would consider personal is recognized as such by the law anymore: for example, the service “Yandex.Taxi” transfers data on users’ travels to law enforcement agencies. This information is not considered personal data, so its transfer does not require a court decision – it is enough for a request from the authorities to be properly processed.

In China, neither emergency situations nor a threat to public order are necessary for censorship and access to personal data. In the previous article, we already detailed about the “Great Chinese Firewall” – it allows authorities to restrict access to foreign resources, keep records of Chinese sites, filter web pages by keywords and force foreign search engines, including Google, to filter search results.

Content filtering and censorship is also practiced by the Iranian government. Providers and Internet cafes in the country are subject to mandatory registration, the law regulates the content of websites, and undesirable sites from the list formed by the authorized comitee are blocked.

Another country that has historically severely restricted communication with the World Wide Web is Cuba. For political and economic reasons, the development of the Internet on “Liberty Island”, firstly, has lagged behind the world pace since its inception, and secondly, it has been restricted by censorship for many years. Due to lack of information, the OpenNet Initiative project in 2007 simply could not assess the degree of Internet filtering in the country.

State control and digital rights restrictions may be not only national, but also situational in nature. One of such situations unfolds right before our eyes: a lot has changed in the conditions of the pandemic, including the degree of restriction of access to information. An international association of non-profit organizations, including Roskomsmoboda and eQualitie, monitors digital infringement around the world and publishes data on Pandemic Big Brother. The project map shows that some limitations “to fight the pandemic” have already been imposed in most countries. Thus, in Russia, video surveillance and violation of freedom of speech have been recorded. Tracking via mobile devices and/or via state apps is used almost in all countries. In a number of countries, in order to track citizens use crowns, in other countries, as well as in Russia, there is a responsibility for publication or distribution of “fake” news, access to the Internet is restricted somewhere.

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The issue of information dissemination in a pandemic is one of the most painful. Under the guise of fighting against inaccurate government data (including and Russia), they block websites and persecute individuals – journalists, doctors and ordinary citizens. In order to help Russian journalists cover the pandemic safely, the Center for Media Rights Protection created a special resource. Here, journalists can get answers to questions about how to organize their work, such as what documents they need to travel. The content of the site clearly indicates that in the Coronavirus era it became more difficult for citizens to exercise their right to information.

Another recent example of how states oppose decentralized services is the ban on launching Gram cryptographic software and its technological basis, the TON block-platform, which has been developed by Telegram messenger team for the last two and a half years. The team decided to close the project after a U.S. court ruling that it was illegal to buy and sell Gram – and not only in the U.S., but all over the world – so that American citizens would have no temptation or opportunity. The world, writes in an appeal to close the project Pavel Durov is too centralized, and we, 96 percent of the world’s population without American citizenship, are overly dependent on the United States for finance and technology.

A abuse of personal data and privacy threat

Did you know that many companies and organizations share information about your interaction with them with Facebook? From online stores to financial brokers, everyone passes on information to the world’s leading social network about what apps and sites you visit, what you do there, and what products you order. You can delete the history of your visits if you want, but to do this you need to know exactly what you agree to when you click the “Sign in via Facebook” button.

This is just one of the examples. Remember how many times you’ve searched for something in your search engine, and then you’ve seen relevant contextual advertising on other sites for several days. You or your acquaintances probably already have stories about how you just talked about something, and the next morning you found an advertising banner on the subject in your device screen. It’s not cyberpunk, it’s reality: anything you write or say can and will be used to sell you a product or service. Neil Alexander, one of the developers of the decentralized network protocol Yggdrasil, says: “It is in advertising that people most notice what they are watching. It’s become common to hear about the “creepy” ads that haunt you on all the sites and all the apps in a row, for example, after you’ve looked for something or talked about something. In many other cases, the tracking is far less obvious.

Restricting access to the network and the abuse of personal data are the dangers that worry the mass user the most, simply because their manifestations are most visible and have the strongest impact on everyday internet life. Technologies of cookies and so-called “pixels” allow site owners to track who comes to them, and then find these visitors on the Internet and show them contextual and targeted advertising on other sites, search engines and social networks. Giant companies are finding new ways to get more data about users. So, in the middle of May it became known that Facebook acquired the service of storing and publishing gif-images of Giphy. That way, the social network would have access to a huge amount of priceless information: Giphy is built into a lot of popular apps, and the development kit for these apps requires that the device ID be disclosed. The service already named“a huge, organic web tracking program”. On Twitter joking: “Did you think they bought it for the boobs?

A less noticeable level of abuse is the direct sale and resale of data. There are consequences for each of us: E-mails that you didn’t subscribe to, calls from beauty salons or imaginary relatives, scammers who purposely come home to pensioners. In recent years, laws in many countries have become stricter in this regard, and even suspicions of malicious data manipulation can lead to serious consequences. For example, Kirill Firsova, the creator of the platform for online stores Deer.io, suspects the FBI in selling access to illegally obtained real personal data. Firsov had been detained at New York City airport immediately upon arrival. Whether or not he is guilty will be investigated and tried. The question is: how many more suspects have not yet been apprehended? How many other attackers are not even suspected of anything?

Not only contact information is under threat, but also financial, medical and other personal information: as a result of hacking from the outside or the activity of the cybercriminals from among the employees, data on passwords, salaries, credit cards and operations on them can fall into the wrong hands. For example, last fall the black market popala base of Sberbank credit card holders, including inactive ones. A recent example is a serious data leak from EasyJet’s UK low-coster: hackers received email addresses and flight information from nearly nine million customers. Less than a week earlier, the data allegedly belonged to nine million customers of SDEC’s express delivery service, received for sale online: the database contains delivery and location information and customer information, including TIN.

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Data collectors are not necessarily intruders. A few months ago, an anonymous source told the media about the so-called Nightingale Project, which allegedly collects medical data from 50 million patients by a team of 250 people from Google and Ascension. The idea seems good: to apply AI and machine learning technologies to the data in order to identify patterns in diseases and find new treatments. However, patients did not know that their data is transmitted to Google, and they also did not have a way to refuse the transfer of data.

Source: Course.



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