on the internet, and power

Bruce Schneier writes on how our internet lives are frequently dominated by a few huge internet companies with immense power over those internet doings:

There are a lot of good reasons why we’re all flocking to these cloud services and vendor-controlled platforms. The benefits are enormous, from cost to convenience to reliability to security itself. But it is inherently a feudal relationship. We cede control of our data and computing platforms to these companies and trust that they will treat us well and protect us from harm. And if we pledge complete allegiance to them — if we let them control our email and calendar and address book and photos and everything — we get even more benefits. We become their vassals; or, on a bad day, their serfs….

…So how do we survive? Increasingly, we have little alternative but to trust someone, so we need todecide who we trust – and who we don’t — and then act accordingly. This isn’t easy; our feudal lords go out of their way not to be transparent…

In the longer term, we all need to work to reduce the power imbalance…   We need to balance this relationship, and government intervention is the only way we’re going to get it.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about trying to create more cooperatively controlled internet infrastructure as a way to balance this power and bring (economic) democracy to the internet.

And, with regard to libraries, in many of our fantasies the institution of libraries, collectively, would be a force in internet life, a civic, public sector, decentralized but massive in aggregate counter-balance to the ‘feudal’ internet companies.  If libraries can find, keep, and expand a sustainable role as internet actors.

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