Policy Recommendations for a Civil and Democratic Digital Future
Whenever there is talk about improving the Internet, politicians
helplessly start speaking of more broadband and faster speeds,
while the general population is experiencing
forms of technological abuse
You may have heard before, that #youbroketheinternet works on a
legislation proposal to address most threats
to democracy, civil society and the future of the human species
caused by digitalization and the Internet. This document provides
a more general series of policy recommendations that you are
invited to include into the programme of whichever political project
you feel part of, putting these goals in comprehensible terms.
Or you may put them on a cardboard poster and walk the streets.
CODE IS LAW. TOTALITARIAN LAW.
Something about microprocessors is different
from most other technologies mankind has created:
While a carpenter inevitably shows how a chair
was made when selling a chair, a smartphone can
be sold without giving the buyer any access to
its function and design.
To motivate the carpenter to design even better
chairs, society has invented the concept of a
patent. Legislators and judges can then decide
whether chair designs should be patentable or not.
With microprocessors, everything the technology
does is imposed on us.
As long as this is permissible, it becomes
a near inevitable requirement for competivitity
to keep developments
proprietary, or to at least put a proprietary
wrapper around open source code, to ensure that
in the end the device does what the manufacturer
wants, not what the customer would want.
Whereas putting a stop sign to these developments
would allow an entire industry to compete on more
ethical, transparent and fair grounds while letting
a customer actually own the thing they paid for.
"Among EU member states, it’s hilarious: they claim digital sovereignty but they rely mostly on Chinese hardware, on American software, and they need a famous Russian to reveal the vulnerabilities" Michael Sieber, Head of Information Superiority of the European Defence Agency.
Instead, the combination of proprietary code running
on proprietary hardware and connected to proprietary
cloud services has created the perfect infrastructure
for surveillance of mankind, collecting information
about your every movement, your every hand gesture,
your every electronic communication. Technology has
bypassed democratic fundamentals such as secrecy of
correspondence now that you can't discuss your
political strategies without your opponent knowing
them and freedom of association now that your
opponent can find out who you have been meeting.
You may think this isn't happening yet (although
some fellas at Cambridge Analytica claim
they already have that sort of information at hand), but
even then if it is technically possible, it is already
a breach of democracy: By definition of democracy,
this must be impossible to happen, in any case.
You heard it before:
"Code is law."
So the challenge is to understand how much algorithms
are an implementation of ethical values and goals.
Code must be under the same severe scrutiny by society as laws are.
The development of software and hardware
has been, to the largest extent, let run wild under
the auspices of capitalism, which has inherently
conflicting interests with human society.
Laws can easily degenerate into not representing
our idea of ethics and society. But laws are
easier to read than code, in particular closed code
that is distributed to use in machine executable form.
Additionally, capitalism has invented the privilege of
putting laws of technology behind copyright control, which
wouldn't be possible with traditional written laws.
While conventional laws must be transparent, the code is
obfuscated both legally by a much contended notion of
intellectual property and technically by the fact that
your smartphone does not need access to actually
human-readable source code to run the laws on your
device, the extension of your self.
Some folks out there have the privilege of writing
the code that runs your life. So it is a logical
deduction, that iPhones, Windows 10 and unrooted
Android devices are,
let's face it, totalitarian.
Therefore our first recommendation for politics would be,
that any code that interacts with private communications
among citizen, which accesses critical data and metadata,
must not be proprietary.
It must be reproducible from source code at any given time.
can exist within so-called sandboxes, where they do their
job without having access to critical data and only limited
access to the Internet in strict correlation to their purpose,
like providing you with a game of chess or Angry Birds, but
no third party on Earth should be technically enabled to peek
into a private video conversation between your spouse and you.
that citizen are enabled to recreate the exact same executable
code that is on the device from the source codes that are
All hardware and operating systems that handle personal data
must be publicly and individually scrutinizable and reproducible
as to be legally available on the European market.
This is not as radical as it sounds and German researchers have been confirming this.
Tech industry does not need
proprietary code to make a living. It's the current state
of things which is radically lunatic, just like the current
global developments in economic inequality and ecological sustainability.
Utter political madness is everywhere these days, so why
should you be surprised to find it in electronics?
Just like the carpenter's ideas can be protected, the work on
a better operating system can be rewarded using societally
acceptable means like patents, governmental or crowd funding.
Of course, we should have a working separation of powers in
democracy to try to ensure these instruments are allocated in
a just and corruption-free way, but they are
the means by which we defend the civil rights and democratic
obligations of humankind while paying due respect to the
thousands of idealistic volunteers that created
the foundational software of nearly all computing today.
Proprietary software hasn't even won the race. Both Android
and Apple's iOS are based on free and open source software.
Yet it's enough to add a thin layer of proprietary control
code on top or underneath (in form of processor microcode for
the hardware) to deny the owners of such devices any real
PSYCHOLOGICAL DATA KILLS DEMOCRACY.
Pervasive observation of human society produces
effective election fraud and enables
Google and Facebook to dominate worldwide advertising.
Bulk collection of data about humans enables these
players to know everybody's psychological weaknesses,
everybody's cognitive biases, then manipulate everybody
through suitable action. Are you sure your father or mother
would never have doubts on your honesty if suitably
presented false information was delivered to them
in just the strategic way that works for their brains?
This is the level of psychological operations by which
recent elections in Kenya, Nigeria, UK and the US
have been fought, and sometimes won.
You may not be enthusiastic about representative democracy
and would love
to hear of something better,
but don't be naive everything that awaits us after the loss
of democracy will be in different degrees of terrible.
We should better do something to keep and maybe improve it.
DATA COLLECTION IS INVISIBLE.
Collection of personal data has been illegal in some places
on Earth for decades already, but suitable laws have never
been enforced. New legislation is now making
it harder to abuse personal data, but it still builds on
fallacies like believing people are able to judge whether it
is okay to give away data, allowing them to give away data
about their social surroundings and trusting corporations to
act correctly on infringements that are invisible to the eye
and hard to prove in court. How can these people have an educated
understanding on a totally intransparent technology which is
designed to betray them behind their backs? If Google and Facebook
persist, they are proof that their business models have not been
discontinued. Therefore it is not enough to
gently ask these monopolists
to somehow please change.
We need to
make it illegal that corporations have access to any private
data in the first place. We must make it a legal
requirement that all digital communication be end-to-end
encrypted on trustworthy hardware and protect the metadata
of who is talking to whom.
The technical implications,
especially of the second part, are non-trivial, but they are
solvable and, given the political will, they will be solved.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE is HARMLESS without DATA.
All the threat scenarios regarding the future of AI imply
that all the social data that Faceboogle, the Five Eyes,
the Chinese government and others have collected, are
thrown at the AI to see what it can make of it. Of course
the AI will be able to subdue all of humanity in little
time if it has access to all its intimacy, psycho-social
weaknesses and intricacies. We should stop it from learning
how to fool humans, as is currently being done to make some
people wealthier on the expense of others, and rather focus
on it learning how to defeat diseases and counter climate
change. The idea, that some big AI of loving grace may rule us
stupid humans better than we could ourselves is fallacious we
will never be able to produce a genuinely neutral and honest AI
that isn't operated and owned by somebody. And if we did, there
are terrible risks that the AI we deploy is buggy and doesn't do
what we would wish for.
By demanding an Internet that is impossible to surveil we
are reducing the risks involved with Artificial Intelligence.
DATA COLLECTION CREATES POVERTY.
Have you noticed that recently tech monopolists have risen to
the top charts of richest people and companies? Is the Internet
really worth that much? Is data creating so much surplus?
No, it isn't creating surplus. It is enabling a very small
selection of people to manipulate what you buy, where you
put the little money that you have. It has always been the
purpose of advertising to fool you into buying things you
didn't care about, but this time it is personal. This time
they are targeting you individually for the psychological
weaknesses you have in your head. They are operating
underneath your line of defense and they are making you
effectively poorer. All the money ending up in their
pockets has to come from somewhere, and it is coming from
the entire world economy that finds it must be investing
in unethical targeted advertising
in order to remain competitive.
You may even appreciate seeing advertising just for those
things you are interested in, but it should be your own
computer, it should be an open source algorithm operating
privately on your private data to select which advertising
to show to you. As long as these algorithms are running
against you from the cloud of the monopolists, you aren't
a conscious consenting buyer. You are manipulated populace.
That's why we must also impede data collection of your
surfing habits, by technologically turning around how the
Web works. When you browse a website it should be ensured
that you remain anonymous.
Even digital payment can and should be anonymous to you as a consumer.
Only in rare circumstances should you let a company grant
access to personal identifying data, and it should not be
useful to that company to sell that data to third parties,
not even illegally.
In some cases, the position of monopoly has emerged simply
by market dominance. What happened to anti-trust? Why is
Amazon allowed to be the one-stop-shop for all kind of
shopping? In the real world we'd be going down the street
and check out all kinds of shops, so all you need is to
be able to rent a spot on that street. On the Internet
people have no starting point, so they predominantly go
to Amazon for shopping, Ebay for trading and to Google if
they don't know where to go, yet. The result is creating
staggering wealth for the owners of these platforms while
the shops participating on them enter a condition of
trickle-down dependency. Independent shops hardly exist
as there is little money to be made in independence.
New ways to redesign the Web are possible, even
how we satisfy basic network needs like searching and
finding traders that provide us with goods in a
decentralised manner. All of this can be designed to
be free from men in the middle, but this needs to be
accompanied by enacting legislation.
MOBILE TELEPHONE TRACKING CAN BE STOPPED.
Hey wait, did you ever think this is possible? That you
can carry a mobile phone with you and yet the service
provider doesn't automatically know at all times who and
where you are? Well, a well-kept secret is that this is
actually feasible we could have an anonymous mobile
telephone system which we pay for anonymously. All
telephones would then look the same to the provider and
every time two people cross on the street the provider
wouldn't be able to tell whether those two people didn't
actually cross the street but instead met for a high
five, turned around and went back instead.
this doesn't work with existing telephones. We are
theorizing new phones intentionally devised to protect
Again, this is important for the purpose of protecting
democracy from mobile phone operators or governments
that may leverage
the extensive metadata reaped from a population's
movements for the purpose of predicting political
developments and impeding the rise of opposition
movements a basic precondition of renewal of democracy.
If the same people always remain in power, it isn't
So we should demand a mobile phone system that not
only disallows access to all private communications, but
makes movement tracking technically impossible.
And again, technology alone won't make this a reality.
It needs political enactment.
QUESTIONS and ANSWERS
Would this terminate the free and open Internet?
Free and open for whom? For the predator to slay your
privacy? For the corrupt to buy election results?
Yes, a Next Generation Internet renewing the net from
the ground would be a departure from the existing
and its abusive economy. It would open a new Internet
where abuse is technically impeded. The first Internet
that maybe actually deserves to be called
free and open.
There should be a transition
period that allows you to still chill on Facebook and
shop at Amazon, but by the time that transition period
is over, everyone will already have preferred the new
way to weave the Web or the European Commission won't
let us legislate it, if it were against popular demand.
Why do we have to call for regulation?
In an age of delusion towards traditional politics,
many people feel more comfortable
in suggesting alternative technologies to build
rather than saying what should be forbidden or
regulated. But some of the problems are already too
big to try and address on market competition level,
and offering alternatives means to remain within the
market competition principle. You may think of yourself
as a young rebel, but you are playing by the rules,
and the rules are wrong.
Regulation has become one of the last instruments that
human society has in order to make ethics dominate
over the market. The notion that consumers could
"vote with their feet,"
by going to a different shop and buying ethically,
seems to be a diversion
tactic that achieves little and distracts from taking
to the streets for your rights. This document is about
things that politicians could press for, in parliaments
and commissions. Regulation, possibly, is our last hope.
And we could walk the streets, demanding these things.
We can have the cake and eat it. We can fix digital
technology to no longer be a threat to our freedoms
while at the same time enjoying apps that put funny
ears to our selfies on our smartphones. In fact,
these technology reforms could be designed in such
a way that average people would hardly notice any
difference. Instead of logging into Facebook,
the social network would be integrated directly into the phone, making it even easier to use.
So here's our chance: We can achieve a couple of steps
necessary to stop humanity from heading towards doom
with a bit of innovative new thinking, excellent new
software and a little help from the European legislator.
And be firmly aware that all other political demands and
issues that may be bothering you, as more important as
they may seem, all depend on this problem to be solved
first, or we will simply lose all political battles.