Why We Need To Shift Our Focus Of The Open Web

By February 26, 2012

A few weeks ago I found myself at a family dinner, when the inevitable discussion of politics became a topic of conversation.  I love my grandma more than anything, but to her only the government can solve an individual’s issues.  She routinely refers to CEO compensation and corporate earnings from the prospective, “your grandfather and I never made more than $40,000 in our best years” noting that only the government can root out greed.

I asked her a simple question, “Has it not always been your hope, that your children and grandchildren have opportunities of success and prosperity though their creativity and hard work?”  Her answer was yes.  I asked if she had heard of SOPA during her nonstop consumption of cable news and she said possibly and if she remembers correctly “it’s a good idea.”  Rarely in my life have I ever disagreed with my grandma outwardly, favoring to just disengage from the conversation but an instant burning in my soul arose as I explained to her why limiting our freedoms to communicate were wrong.  That as an entrepreneur, I depend on the web for my livelihood.  I explained to her how scared I was, that my ability to continue building a company that could rise to a competitive position in the market was under attack.

The argument has often been made that regulation of the Internet will stop innovation, which is not true.  Creative and motivated people will always develop new, better and more interesting ways to solve problems for good and bad.  What is true is that regulation will make it nearly impossible to bring those ideas to market.

Cyber security is all the rage in Congress these days with ACTA – ‘The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement’, Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and the now discussed Cyber Security Act of 2012.  We are headed down a dangerous road that includes a set of regulations that will make it impossible for startups to function, if they are unable to protect user information at the same institutional levels mandated toward the largest and most powerful corporations.  For many companies with great ideas, funding is already difficult to attain, now we are facing an additional infrastructural challenge that will diminish opportunities further.

On February 16th, US Senate held a hearing to discuss “Homeland Security Department power to identify vulnerabilities and set regulations requiring operators of critical networks to improve security or face penalties.”  It’s worrisome enough that Senator Lieberman continually made the point that this should be done as quickly as possible, without committee hearings (no doubt because Lamar Smith’s efforts with SOPA were a political disaster).  What troubles me further is DHS may soon have the power to monitor your business at will.  Even if you don’t do business online, 99.9% of companies use shipping services to receive goods, payment services, email, power and software that open them to scrutiny.

I am deeply troubled by the increasing volume of statements like “privacy doesn’t matter because only people who have something to hide, call for privacy”.  My response is that just because various aspects of my life are private and I cherish them very much, doesn’t mean someone else has the right to know about them.  To this end, we must change the focus of an open web from file sharing to our abilities to have a private, healthy, loving environment to share at our individual discretion and to create business which is the focal point of the political attack.

The US Declaration of Independence states “That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”  Under the US Bill of Rights, Amendment 1: Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I don’t feel safe and the increase attacks on our freedoms through legislation internationally like ACTA and TPPA, and nationally with SOPA, PIPA, CSA of 2012, will carry catastrophic consequences to our ability to purse and attain happiness.

So how do we shift the focus.  I will tell you upfront, I don’t presume to have the all the answers, however I do have some ideas and hope that within your own companies and social groups, stimulating conversation can generate the ideas.  If you are like me, you hate corporate business culture but every day you are building toward inclusion into that group of well known brands around the world.  The internet is simply a vehicle to increase commerce of products, services and information.  Our focus should not centralize on a tiny fraction of internet function, that has become the face of the open web.  Our focus should on our ability to do business, our relationships with people and our the improved quality of life we enjoy because of our freedoms.  Some are not up for the fight, some are overly motivate just to be part of a fight but in the end, it is we the people of United State of The Internet who have been given sovereignty as directed by the US Declaration of Independence as members in a “state of society”.  We are not the problem but we have to be the solution.