Anne Laurie sent me this link to a story in Slate discussing the Reporters Without Borders declaration of two sets of enemies of the Internet. The first are countries that use surveillance gear, Syria, China, Iran, Bahrain and Vietnam. The second axis of Internet evil is a set of companies that produce surveillance gear:
The other is a list of five “Corporate Enemies of the Internet,” five private-sector companies that are “digital era mercenaries.” The five companies chosen are Gamma, Trovicor, Hacking Team, Amesys and Blue Coat, but the list is not exhaustive and will be expanded in the coming months. They all sell products that are liable to be used by governments to violate human rights and freedom of information.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for the entity that controls access to the Internet, whether a corporation, government or university, to monitor, block or otherwise manipulate traffic between the network they control and the Internet. The five companies named there make special purpose filtering devices, but so do the big enterprise players like Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent and Juniper, whose general-purpose equipment can also do some filtering and monitoring. If we’re going to name and shame, they all do it. The question is whether those five have made a special effort to attract despotic regimes, and it’s not answered in the piece. I suppose if you think that monitoring cubicle dwellers to see if they’re surfing porn during work hours is inherently immoral, then what those companies do is wrong. Otherwise, it’s how the despotic countries use the technology that’s the real issue, and the technology is a sideshow.
That said, the piece also links to some tools to work around state censorship, and that’s good to know and probably a more fruitful place to spend anti-censorship energy, since I don’t see big changes coming in the way Iran, for instance, approaches the Internet.